An exhibition celebrating the talent of wood crafters and furniture designers from the city of Tripoli opened Tuesday September 24th at Beyt Amir, under the patronage and in the presence of HE the Minister of Industry Mr. Wael Abou Faour and the Head of the Economy and Local Development Section at the Delegation of the European Union to Lebanon Mr. Jose Luis Viunesa-Santamaria, Mr. Mokbel Malak representing former Prime Minister of Lebanon Najib Mikati, Ms. Maya Khoury representing the Minister of State for Economic Empowerment of Women and Youth HE Violette Khairallah Safadi, First Counsellor at the Embassy of France in Lebanon Ms. Salina Grenet-Catalano, President of the Association of Lebanese Industrialists (ALI) Dr. Fady Gemayel, President of the Chamber of Commerce, Industry and Agriculture of Tripoli and North Lebanon Mr. Toufic Dabboussi, President of the Rachid Karami International Fair in Tripoli Mr. Akram Oueida, designers, artisans and others.
The landmark show, which features the creations of artisans working for Minjara, the furniture design brand and business support hub, traveled to Lebanon from Paris, where it took place earlier this month at the residence of the Ambassador of Lebanon to France H.E. Mr. Rami Adwan.
The three-day exhibition highlights the key role that Minjara is playing in reinvigorating the woodcraft industry in Tripoli and restoring it to its former glory.
While the city's furniture sector has a rich legacy dating back to 150 years, more recently, producers have found themselves struggling and facing several significant challenges. Under the Private Sector Development Program (PSD-P), which is funded by the European Union and implemented by Expertise France in close partnership with the Association of Lebanese Industrialists (ALI) and BIAT (Business Incubation Association in Tripoli), Minjara is helping Tripoli to revive the sector on a modern vision built on the rich heritage of yesteryear. It is also setting strict quality regulations, helping producers to secure access to market and identify untapped opportunities.
Minjara includes a physical facility located at the iconic Rachid Karami International Fair in Tripoli, in an old building designed by the famous Oscar Niemeyer, where designers and manufacturers meet to develop and showcase their best creations. The platform also serves as a showroom for furniture pieces produced under the Minjara brand.
Commenting at the opening, Minister Wael Abou Faour said "The Lebanese industry is capable of evolving and this exhibition is the living proof where heritage, innovation, the experiences and expertise from the past, and traditional crafts came together. I thank everyone who contributed to make this exhibition possible, and for this concept that revives the industry and that makes way for Lebanese creativity to evolve further and further."
Ms. Hala Moubarak, curator of Minjara Editions said the exhibition reaffirmed that in an era when the world is shifting inexorably towards technology, artificial intelligence and robotics, some had the courage to go against the flow. "Designers, creators and developers have clearly taken a side and are standing with the artisan, the handmade crafts, reaching out to those who, over many generations, learned to make and continue to do so," she noted. "I'm delighted that we've been able to reveal the wealth of talent among artisans operating in Tripoli and relay the results of their work to a wider audience."
Mr. Julien Schmitt, team leader Expertise France added: "This exhibition proves that collaboration and respect of business rules among participants can only yield success and excellence. This is exactly the purpose that the Private Sector Development Program aims to achieve by promoting competitiveness among the sectors' key actors".
He added: "By choosing the best designers and woodcrafters, the program successfully paved the way towards this exhibition that we hope would open up new prospects to sell local products under the Minjara brand."
Mr. Toufic Dabboussi reiterated Minjara's role in supporting the city's furniture sector: "Thanks to Minjara, this sector has become a success story through pieces of furniture, or shall I say pieces of art, with a distinguished design and disciplined execution. Therefore, we should work with determination and seriousness for a prosperous industry, a high-end Lebanese industry that enriches the world and contributes to reviving the Lebanese economy in general and Tripoli's economy in particular."
In his speech, Dr. Fady Gemayel said: "We have put our trust and hope in Tripoli's heroes and we could not let Lebanon's long-standing industry, especially in Tripoli which is known for its ancient and traditional crafts such as home furniture, suffer. We believed in these capacities despite the difficult circumstances and we believed that we can take pride in our traditional crafts, bring them together with our designers and conquer the world with value-added and distinguished products. It's not too late for the sector's key actors to collaborate and work together to make the idea work in Tripoli and in the whole country."
Mr. Jose Luis Viunesa-Santamaria said: "Promoting economic development and job creation in this global challenging economic situation is amongst the top priorities and goals of the European Union in Lebanon. This wood sector is not only a vital sector for the city, serving both economic and social goals, but has also helped put its name on the map. Providing both financial and non-financial assistance to Lebanese entrepreneurs in this sector is essential as it will allow them to increase their productivity and income, thus becoming more competitive."
The work has been produced in collaboration with several Lebanese designers and Tripolitan artisans.