Why is today's Google Doodle about Etel Adnan?

Why is today's Google Doodle about Etel Adnan?

Etel Adnan was in her 80s when her art started to draw international attention

(Sfeir-Semler Gallery Beirut/Hamburg/Google)

Today’s Google Doodle is a celebration not only of art but of the richness of intercultural identities.

Head to the search engine’s home page and you’ll see the illustrated face of a sage, elderly woman, brandishing a paintbrush surrounded by books and paintings, all in vibrant block technicolour.

The design celebrates the painter, poet and essayist Etel Adnan, who was hailed in one US literary journal as "arguably the most celebrated and accomplished Arab American author writing today".

Adnan was born in Beirut in 1925 to a Greek mother and a Turkish father, both of whom were migrants to Lebanon.

This meant she was immersed in multiculturalism right from day one: speaking Greek and Turkish at home, living in a primarily Arabic-speaking country and attending a French language school.

In an interview with Bidoun, Adnan explained that she “didn’t identify with the rich or the poor, though [her] father’s family in Damascus were among the top families.”

She explained: “My mother was extremely poor when she grew up. She used to say there were only two jobs in Smyrna for women — to pick grapes for raisins or be a prostitute.

“If my mother hadn’t married my father, she may have been one,” she continued. “She was 16 when he met her. Then the Greeks in Turkey were in concentration camps.”

Google paid homage to Adnan with a vibrant Doodle on 15 April(Google)

At the age of 23, Adnan moved to France to study philosophy and art at University of Paris, before heading to the US to continue her studies at the universities of California, Berkeley, and Harvard.

After working for more than 10 years as a lecturer in institutions across America, she returned to Lebanon to serve as a journalist and editor for the newspapers Al Safa and L’Orient le Jour, where she helped develop a section dedicated to culture in Lebanon and the Middle East, Google notes in its blurb to the Doodle.

Over the years, Adnan continued to hone her craft as a visual artist, earning widespread praise for her vibrant abstract paintings, which were inspired by the landscapes of California and Lebanon.

Today, museums and galleries across the world – including New York’s Guggenheim and Doha’s Mathaf: Arab Museum of Modern Art – have proudly displayed her work.

As a writer who penned works in French, English and Arabic, she regularly explored the themes of identity, memory, feminism, and the human experience.

These novels and poems spanned across cultures and continents, reflecting the many identities and experiences she experienced over her more than nine decades on Earth.

A glimpse of 'Etel Adnan: The Weight of the World, Installation ' at London's Serpentine Gallery on June 1, 2016 in London(Getty Images)

Adnan’s contributions to the arts earned her numerous prestigious accolades including the Lambda Literary Award in 2013, France’s Chevalier des Arts et des Lettres in 2014, the Griffin Poetry Prize Lifetime Recognition Award in 2020, and more.

Google chose to celebrate her on 15 April because this was the date on which in, 1955, she hosted her first solo exhibition in San Rafael, California.

Adnan died in Paris on 14 November 2021 of a heart ailment at the age of 96.

And yet, as is the way with all great artists, her legacy will continue to live on

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