DUBAI: Jigsaw puzzles featuring works by great artists, including Vincent van Gogh, Gustav Klimt, and Hokusai, are commonplace these days. But a Lebanese entrepreneur changes the game, so to speak, by bringing Arab artists into the mix.
Camille Saade launches Pazel – named after the phonetic transcription of the word “puzzle” – which pays tribute to three multigenerational artists from Lebanon and Syria.
It is a cultural project that stems from Saade’s secondary interest in art. “Whenever I visited museums and exhibitions, I loved the boutiques and stores they had and the things they sold. I used to buy the puzzles, whenever I could, ”she told Arab News from Beirut. “On October 17, 2019, when the protests started in Beirut, we were locked in our home and I was actually doing one of the puzzles. My sister was sitting with me and I said to her, “You know, we don’t have such fun and educational games for our art, our culture. This is how the idea came to me. I hope it will be something new and fresh, and that people enjoy it.
She hopes to introduce talented regional artists, who may not be as well known as their overseas counterparts. “If I mention Picasso or Damien Hirst to my friends who are not art lovers, they will know who they are. But they wouldn’t know, for example, Abdul Rahman Katanani. They would ask me: “Who is this? It is therefore also a way of creating cultural awareness and educating people, ”explains Saade.
The young entrepreneur will also donate a percentage of Pazel’s profits to the Beirut Heritage Initiative, launched last year with the aim of restoring Beirut’s architectural and cultural heritage.
To help him put together the pieces of his idea, Saade approached longtime Lebanese art dealer and gallery owner Saleh Barakat, who introduced him to some artists and their works. “He was very enthusiastic from the start. He would support any project that promotes art, ”she said. “We tried to find artists who were easy going and ready to play the game.”
Pazel’s first series of games will feature natural, geometric and figurative works by Lebanese artists Bibi Zogbé (1890-1973) and Nabil Nahas (born 1949), as well as Anas Albraehe (born 1991) from Syria. “They have something in common, because all three have left their country,” says Saade. “Bibi, who was ahead of her time as a female artist, left Lebanon for Argentina. Nabil Nahas went to the United States during the civil war, and Anas had to flee Syria. They have succeeded outside of their country.
During the containment of COVID-19, puzzles and other board games have become increasingly popular. While it’s a fun hobby for young people, puzzles can also have cognitive benefits, according to Saade’s research. “A puzzle can have many benefits. First, it engages your problem-solving, spatial recognition skills, and is very detail-oriented. It helps memory and puzzle solving is encouraged to help fight Alzheimer’s disease. At the same time, children with autism like to play puzzles, ”she says. “In my personal experience, it’s like meditation. It’s an anti-stress activity, where your brain literally slows down and you don’t think about anything and you just focus on that piece of art that is in front of you. We’re so stuck on our screens, I think it’s a diversion.
Each colorful Pazel box comes with 500 puzzle pieces, a small poster listing the details of the artwork on display, and an artist biography on the back of the box to make it more educational. What was most important to Saade was the painting itself. “I wanted the artwork to be the centerpiece of the packaging,” she notes.
Pazel was designed in Beirut, but Saade would like to see it appealing to fans of Arab art in Paris and Dubai. At a time when Lebanese start-ups and young entrepreneurs face uncertainty as the country’s economy remains unstable, Saade’s story of staying in Lebanon and starting something new goes against the grain. .
“There were times when I was reluctant and hesitated because of the fluctuation in the currency,” she says. “I thought maybe now was not the right time and I had to wait. But then again, I thought, ‘Wait what?’ I don’t think things will change anytime soon. So I just jumped in and took the risk.