Zena el Khalil believes in the positive impact that art can have on the world. Born year of the Dragon, Zena is a visual artist, cultural activist, writer and Nāda yoga instructor based in Beirut, Lebanon.
Zena uses visual art, site-specific installation, performance and ritual to explore and heal the war-torn history of Lebanon and other global sites of trauma. Believing in the importance of community engagement with contemporary art, she also curates cultural events that create platforms for dialogue and exchange. Though her collective, the Ātman Institute, Zena curates events, workshops and concerts dedicated to healing and reconciliation, through the mediums of ceremony, sound and art.
Zena has been conducting healing ceremonies across Lebanon in spaces that have historically endured trauma and violence, with the intention of transforming these places and objects in them into generators peace and reconciliation in nature and with communities. These ceremonies include a process of meditation, chanting, dancing, whirling and a purifying fire ritual through which she create paintings, sculptures, sound and video art. She exhibits internationally and is represented by Giorgio Persano Gallery, Italy.
While living in NYC, Zena co-founded xanadu* (www.xanaduproductions.net), an art collective and gallery space dedicated to promoting emerging Arab and underrepresented artists as a direct response to the 9-11 attacks. During the 2006 invasion of Lebanon, Zena was one of the first largely followed Middle Eastern bloggers (http://www.beirutupdate.blogspot.com); her writings published in the international press, including the BBC, CNN, the Guardian and Der Spiegel. In 2008, she was invited to speak at the Nobel Peace Center in Oslo and soon after, completed her memoir, Beirut, I Love You, now translated in several languages. In an attempt to spread peace, Zena is often seen running around Beirut in a big pink wedding dress. In 2012, Zena was invited to join the TED Fellowship program and in 2018 she was awarded a TED Senior Fellowship.
Zena is also a graduate of the world’s first Nāda Yoga teacher training program, the Heart of Sound, certified by the Yoga Alliance dedicated solely to the yoga of sacred sound and subtle vibration. Zena believes that sound based meditation is a universal path to Self-realization, accessible to anyone and appropriate for people of any religion and spiritual aspiration. Music and mantra emerge from the same source and work together to penetrate the dream of form and rest in boundless love that is both the source and substance of creation.