Comics strips have arrived at the American University of Beirut, thanks to the Mu’taz and Rada Sawwaf Arabic Comics Initiative, which will provide opportunities for the academic research and promotion of Arabic comics.
With a five-year pledge from the Sawwaf family, the initiative, which will be under the direct authority of the University Provost, will help AUB promote the research, teaching, and production of Arabic comics, and develop and maintain a repository of Arabic comics literature.
An AUB trustee since 2014, Mu’taz Sawwaf (BArch ’74), is a comics connoisseur and an accomplished illustrator as well as an executive board member of the Saudi Binladin Group and the managing director for the Architecture and Building Construction Division (ABCD).
Sawwaf believes that comics and cartoons have always influenced society and public opinion and, they continue to inspire them in the 21st century.
“The Arab world is no exception,” he said, “yet no one has tried to understand and promote comics art from an educational, academic, and entertainment perspective, nor has anyone honored the Arab pillars of this very creative art form.”
He added, “I believe AUB is the most suitable platform to initiate a center for the study of Arabic comics.”
AUB Provost Ahmad Dallal agrees. “The region would benefit tremendously from an academic body that would act as a hub for the study of this Arabic cultural heritage and a platform for the interdisciplinary inquiry and specialized teaching of this art form,” he said.
While an abundance of scholarship has focused on American, European, and
Japanese (and other East Asian) comics, noted Dallal, very little research of Arabic comics has been produced.
“This is partly due to the lack of resources allocated to the study of this medium, but also due to the inexistence of an accessible and professionally maintained database of Arabic comics,” he added. “This is why AUB would serve as the ideal institution for hosting such an initiative, with its library and lab resources and its academic expertise.”