Dar Onboz, literally meaning the house of hemp seeds, is an independent award winning publishing house founded in 2006 in Beirut by Nadine Touma and Sivine Ariss. The ethos of their work is to produce and print beautiful books for children and young adults that celebrate the arabic language and its richness. Its name is inspired by Touma’s grandmother who used to be a legendary story teller and loved hemp seeds which she stored in her kitchen closet (namliye).
The following, which inspired this post, is an excerpt from the book Sama:
Little by little my mother started to live again and learned to love,
And taught my father to love,
And my father taught his sister
And his sister taught her husband
And her husband taught the neighbour
And the neighbour taught his friend
And his friend taught her brother
And her brother taught her grandmother
And little by little the people of the city remembered to live. And when they remembered how to live, they remembered how to love.
Children are born out of love, they live surrounded by love, and they can teach us how to love again. That small passage is a labour of love. A positive attitude opens you to the flow of life. It defines the energy you send out and shapes your circumstances. It has a spiritual undertone to it; to love thy neighbour. Positive energy is infectious so with the right attitude little by little we will learn to love Beirut again and take care of it. This message of love and pride in our culture is beautifully sown between the lines and the delicate paper of their books.
Their books conjure memories of my grandfather, who used to be a great storyteller, telling us all kinds of stories on Sunday mornings. It takes me back to a time when stories were told and filled the room with magic. Those stories had frogs and horses, a girl called Farida, a fish who ate a ball, a mouse that outsmarted a bunch of robbers, and a tante Felomina who made a necklace out of a broken moon. I love these tales because they are reminiscent of that genre of story telling that belongs to the past, the one people with great imagination can put together, people who are from a different world. Collecting their books in our family library means that I get to have a part of my grandfather’s spirit to share every night when I tuck my boys to sleep, just before the world rests and my boys surrender to a silent night under their starry sheets.
A page from the book Sama