Tradition, War and Women’s Struggles: The Art of Mona Trad Dabaji

“My main concern has always been our traditions and the situation of women in the Arab world,” writes Lebanese artist Mona Trad Dabaji. “Lost traditions ruined by war and later, the reconstruction! The woman’s struggle to be herself in a world that does not recognise her rights.”

Mona, who lives and works in Beirut, graduated from the American University of Beirut just as the civil war was breaking out in Lebanon. She creates realistic paintings that depict women working in the fields, at construction sites and also dreamier, erotic images that feature them reading or resting in opulent surroundings – with hookahs and smartphones nearby. These pieces are odalisque-like but they remain specially significant because they are made by a female Middle Eastern artist herself to assert her individuality and not by a male Westerner, as in the past. “Jean-Auguste-Dominique Ingres and Henri Matisse were dreaming about such a world of women,” says Mona, “although they didn’t have the chance to see it or get into it. I intend to paint a real women’s world from the inside of her everyday life, creating a complexity that no Orientalist can ever dream of.”

Many of Mona’s paintings appear on old doors and windows that she has collected over the years, saved from demolition wreckage. She grants these pieces of wood a chance of rebirth in new interiors, and thus helps to wipe out the last shadows of war.


Mona Trad Dabaji


Mona Trad Dabaji has been teaching painting since 1993. She has exhibited in Lebanon, France, Jordan, the United States and the United Arab Emirates. Her first milestone in her career was in 1992, when she held her exhibition “Beyrouth, ville fantôme” (Beirut, The Phantom City), portraying the shattered city centre of Beirut. Her 2008 exhibition ” My land is Not for Sale” confirmed her constant allegiance to her devastated land.

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Images used with permission.