A letter to Cici
By Nabil Abou-Dargham
In remembrance of the well-known portraitist of the Arab World, Cici Sursock (1923-2015), and for the occasion of her birthday anniversary (March 23rd), Nabil Abou-Dargham presents a lettre-ouverte to Cici.
So, Cici, everything goes like a bird’s song in the skies. It’s life, this miraculous creation that defeats us again. Life, which we used to see as a source of happiness and dreams, separates the friendships, the faces, the voices, the I-love-yous, the good-byes, and the when-are you-coming backs.
Fairuz by Cici 1980
I used to call you from time to time in Split where you spent your last years. Your majestic voice used to evoke the royal souvenirs of an ancient Yugoslavia and a palace always standing there, on the Nile, which knows that for each and every word a deeper and stronger silence exists.
50 Years of Cinema by Cici
Little Boy by Cici
Talking about you Cici, is talking about a belle-époque when everything was equally beautiful, mysterious, and when craziness was reasonable… God how craziness was reasonable!!!
25 March 1988. Do you remember the first meeting in your studio? A portrait under the attentive and vigorous eye of Marie-Therese Arbid, the cultural chief of the French-speaking daily L’Orient-Le Jour. A portrait, which I still cherish like a newborn baby. We spoke of your life, your legendary portraits, your nudes, your icons. We spoke of Lebanon who opened his arms to you when the winds migrated over the Nile and the sun in the 1950s. You said: “the human being is small.” You tried to alleviate this anxious story of mankind by turning the pages. But the multiple eyes of your models and the gestures of their bodies reminded us of a certain absurd heaviness you always felt. Then a touch of your pencil reached the grand moment of the eyes. You said: “We have done all this job to reach this point.” It is the model. It is him. But it is also you who has always discovered the world through your own eyes, and through an intelligence usually owned by those who knew “ups and downs”.
Autoportrait – 1994
November 1992. After a stay in Split, you passed by Beirut. A gathering with your friends. We listened to your words, we listened to your silence. We told you that your nudes were a courageous phase to be repeated. We spoke of your portraits, of the grand moments of the eyes. You smiled. You looked at your icons on the wall like a blond Magdalena contemplating the calm of the Gods.
January 1993. Back to Split, you sent me a letter: “Write, write, write… you do it beautifully. I was happy during my visit to Beirut. I hope God Will Allow me to repeat it again.”
Life always murmurs its moments of happiness and its moments of pain. It is Life that will never allow us to know enough. It is Life that always begins again, reproduces, and revolts despite everything. Despite the good-byes and the when-are you-coming backs…!!!
Portrait of Nabil Abou-Dargham by Cici Sursock