Rafik El Hariri’s touch makes him stand out from the crowd. There is infinite sweetness in his illustrations, drawn from a nostalgia that is never bitter, but rather full of hopes and dreams, and at the same time, his works exhibit a fierce strength and intelligence in the messages they convey.
Rafik El Hariri (yes, he writes his name with a k) is a Lebanese designer, illustrator, and university instructor. He and his work have been featured on a wide range of platforms including Adobe, Vogue Arabia, VICE Arabia, GQ Middle East, The National, Plastik, Marie Claire Arabia, and more. Very much inspired by ‘Le Petit Prince’ and Antoine de Saint Exupéry, and also involved in mental health advocacy, this TEDx speaker was featured in Forbes’ 30 under 30. He frequently collaborates with musicians, designing the covers of their albums, including the American-Egyptian band Veridia, the Saudi singer Tamtam, and the Lebanese artists Mayssa Karaa and Blu Fiefer.
What is the one thing you wish people would stop wearing?
Crocs. I will never understand Crocs.
What creation of yours are you most proud of?
By far, it would be my latest written-illustrated book, “I Found A Heart”.
What was your worst artistic faux-pas?
I think it would be romanticizing melancholy for a while in my illustrations.
If you were to choose one of your illustrations, or that of any other artist, to look at every day for the rest of your life, what would it be?
The Seven Ravens by Paul Hey, 1939.
What do you dream of illustrating?
One of my biggest dreams and career goals is to illustrate some cover art for Evanescence.
When was the last time you pulled an all-nighter?
The last time I did not pull an all-nighter was back in 2012.
Name five people, dead or alive, that you’d like to invite to a private dinner party at your house.
Amy Lee, Florence Welch, René Magritte, Marina Abramovic, and Oliver Jeffers.
What does the word “sustainability” mean to you?
Respecting Mother Earth, we don’t own it.
What would the title of your Netflix documentary be?
Describe the MENA region in 3 words.
Diverse, mysterious, and surprising.
How is “Young, Arab and Proud” translated in your work?
Through shamelessly illustrating my thoughts; the good, the bad, and the ugly.
What is Arab DNA made of?
Ambition, relentlessness, and a zest for life.
What is the most common misconception about being an Arab?
That we are perceived as uneducated.
If you could travel in time to meet any Arab icon, who would it be, and why?
Zaha Hadid, because she’s a pioneer in her craft and her defiance is uncanny.
What is something that makes you uncomfortable in the MENA artistic industry and that you would like to see changed?
Gatekeeping. The fact that some established individuals or organizations in the industry get in the way of emerging talents due to personal agendas and/or ulterior motives is frivolous and unnecessary. There’s room for everyone to thrive, and halting someone’s growth is malicious.
How is the gender-neutral trend translated in MENA fashion?
Slowly but surely, it’s sprouting, and that’s awesome.
What is one Arab tradition you would want to change, and what is the one you adore?
The one Arab tradition that I would want to change would be that you are forcefully expected to respect an “elder” when it isn’t always the right thing to do. One tradition, which is more of a custom, that I love, is our hospitality.
What is an Arab dish you could eat every day?
Fattoush, in a heartbeat.
What is your favorite Arabic song that is often stuck on repeat in your playlist?
“TA’AA” by Mayssa Karaa.
Um Kulthum or Fairuz?
What is one city in the MENA region you could live in forever, and why?
Tripoli will always be the city that I would want to live in. I was born and raised in Tripoli, it made me who I am today, with all of my values, artistic muses, and my appreciation for the little things in life.