The Lebanese Design Community Is In a State of Repair

Bokja Masks Vogue

Vogue BY LILAH RAMZI – November 20, 2020

“Glass has become a rare commodity,” says Huda Baroudi, one of the founders of Beirut-based design studio Bokja, whose ateliers were damaged in the August 4 blast that took more than 190 lives and injured at least 6,000. Baroudi and her cofounder, Maria Hibri, have not yet replaced their shattered storefront windows; their boutique closer to the site of the explosion was rendered uninhabitable. Bokja, which produces lushly embroidered cushions, jackets, robes, and shirts, is not alone. Furniture and homeware purveyors, many of whom were based in badly impacted historic neighborhoods like Mar Mikhaël, where streets feature Levantine archways and telephone wires drape like a canopy overhead, have acutely felt the effects of the disaster.

Despite its reduced capacities, Bokja is back at work; the brand has invited its community to bring in broken furniture for repairs. In a mode that evokes the Japanese art of kintsugi—a method of ceramics restoration that marks seams with a golden lacquer—Hibri and Baroudi are using a conspicuous red thread to mend upholstery tears. “We don’t want to forget the wounds,” says Hibri. Beirut has long prided itself on its capacity for reinvention—the city’s mythological symbol is the phoenix—but Hibri wants to remember the city’s suffering: “Let’s not be resilient; let’s mourn properly.”

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Bokja’s artisans mend furniture with a red stitch, evocative of a medical stitch, to commemorate the injured. Photo: Courtesy of Bokja

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