She fueled herself with strawberries and champagne, stuck feathers in her bun, painted her nails in different colors, but willingly let the white hair run freely through her mane… That’s how she was, Mireille Honein. Intrinsically free. Assuming his paradoxes, his life choices and his colorful personality. Both feminine and feminist. Fanciful and militant. Furiously and… tenderly engaged. Against all shackles, shackles, confinements. Whether community, religious, societal or even marital. “Having the choice is what matters most to me. If you have the choice, you have the freedom. The reverse is not always true, ”she hammered, during an interview, her big black eyes suddenly full of defiance.
She had chosen everything Mireille Honein: her country, her chosen city, her profession, her personal status…
Daughter of Édouard Honein, a graduate in private and public international law, she decided at the very beginning of the 1975 war to abandon a legal career in the shadow of her father to go to France to pursue studies in communication sciences at the Sorbonne. . His objective: to return to engage with the Ministry of Information “which, at the time, was very weak, very poorly connected and absolutely unable to correct the false idea that we had, abroad , of the war in Lebanon”, she confided to us in this same interview.
The course of events will force him to revise his plans. Stranded in Paris, she joins an international French-speaking organization. This first professional experience will lead her to fight against all forms of injustice and in particular those affecting women.
Couples for this refractory to marriage
If the remoteness of the native country teaches her to name her “personal revolts”, it is by means of the peregrinations of the weekend in the galleries, the Salons and the exhibitions, that she tames the French capital. She then discovers a passion for art that will definitely attach her to this teeming city of artists. A passion that will lead him in a completely unexpected way to join their circle at the dawn of his 40th birthday.
Because it was during a visit to a sculptor’s studio that, spontaneously taking a piece of clay, she fashioned her first work, with “an astonishing mastery of volumes”. His pleasantly surprised hostess immediately offered him a clay loaf, a spinner and a knife with a broken tip to encourage him to start sculpting.
From then on, Mireille Honein dropped everything and completely immersed herself in a new life made up of intense work with clay, a prelude to the smooth and sensual bronze in which she tirelessly poured her couples. Love duets, which symbolize, for the one who was all her life refractory to the institution of marriage, “the understanding, the harmony, the equality of one and the other and above all the Lebanese otherness” , she will say.
The couple, communication and exchanges between humans were his favorite themes. They inspired him hundreds of works of a very refined figurative and where the overall form takes precedence over the detail. Sculptures of different sizes, some of which sit enthroned in public spaces both in France and in Lebanon. Over the years, she will refine her artistic knowledge and mastery. She will also set about experimenting with other techniques and other materials: wood, stone, then concrete, metal, plaster… Her work opens up to new horizons and expressions and , in particular, to the art of installation. In the early 2000s, she presented (in Beirut at the Janine Rubeiz gallery) totally new series of characters bound by social constraints, the situation in the country, the game of the powerful… A way for Mireille Honein to express a politicized opinion without words or speeches. “Enjoyable work, like a punch in the face of a bastard,” she said, smiling broadly as she dipped a strawberry into her glass of champagne.
And wedding dresses
In the same vein, this “rebellious in the soul” will present in April 2017, on the Corniche of Beirut, an ephemeral art installation composed of 31 wedding dresses, in lace and paper. A job she offers in support of the Abaad association, which campaigns for the abolition of article 522 of the Lebanese penal code. A text of law which suspends the continuations against a rapist if this one marries his victim. “This installation brings together my two favorite causes: my commitment to Lebanon and to the feminist cause”, exulted the one who also left her mark in the heart of Beirut with her Reading, a 2m20 sculpture representing a couple reading in a giant work that she gave to the city of Beirut in 1998. A piece made of resin and slate – which sits in Achrafieh, avenue Charles Malek opposite the Sofil center – which she wanted to be emblematic of the famous Lebanese coexistence. And for good reason, it represents, according to him, “the symbol of the Christian and the Muslim reading their common history together”.
Mireille Honein, an artist in love with justice, equality and freedom…
Testimonials from friends
“She was a whole woman who did not bother with frills in life. In her remarks, her choices or her friendships, she only went to the essentials. She had the right word for everyone in joy and in sorrow, ”says journalist and former head of the OLJ Culture page Maria Chakhtoura, her classmate. “Neither forcing me nor preventing me,” she said.
Mireille Honein was undoubtedly forced to take her last bow, one would like to believe that she decided on the moment, as this free, determined, strong woman did as she pleased, “recalls with emotion our colleague Carla Henoud, another of his relatives. “Always in another dimension which allowed him, in these daily sleepless nights, to imagine more and more extraordinary installations. To the excess of her person and her character… The universe of this artist who sculpted the Lebanese artistic landscape in her own way, stripping it of a useless and incidental modesty, was populated by all her ideas, all her excesses. , its demands and all its beautiful follies. A free woman, liberated well before her time from all constraints, whether artistic or personal, she therefore did as she pleased. A feminist spirit that saw big, even bigger and endless projects, always in search of truth and justice, without any concessions. Mireille Honein will leave an unnamed void in all the places that she and her works have haunted; with all the people who had the chance to meet her to never leave her again. Die-hard, to the very end of her convictions and her extremes, she leaves us in a terrible silence where the red she loved so much has given way to the black of absence. »
“Singular in everything, never giving up on her revolt or her dreams, describes her for her part the illustrator and cartoonist Zeina Abi Rached. Mireille Honein, the woman and the artist, because one does not go without the other, was free, generous, ample, attentive to her time and to others, Lebanon in her heart and her gaze always carrying more away… She will be missed. Terribly. I will never forget our first meeting, Mymo had painted on one of her red nails, four small white dots around a small yellow dot. A daisy. I was 9 years old, I had never seen anyone do that before. An unforgettable presence had entered my life. She’ll miss me. Terribly. »
She fueled herself with strawberries and champagne, stuck feathers in her bun, painted her nails in different colors, but willingly let the white hair run freely through her mane… That’s how she was, Mireille Honein. Intrinsically free. Assuming his paradoxes, his life choices and his colorful personality. Both feminine and feminist. Whimsical…