Zena el Khalil was born in April 1976, and lives in Beirut. A visual artist, writer, cultural activist and Nāda yoga instructor, she works with a variety of formats, ranging from painting to installation and performance, mixed media to collage, exploring themes that focus on creating a culture of peace through love, compassion, forgiveness, and empathy.
She holds a Master of Fine Arts from the School of Visual Arts in NYC, a Bachelor’s in Graphic Design from the American University of Beirut and a 200 RYT certificate from the Yoga Alliance. El Khalil exhibits internationally, including New York, San Francisco, Miami, London, Paris, Tokyo and Dubai. She has also had personal exhibitions in Lagos, London, Munich, Turin and Beirut.
In New York, she founded xanadu*, an art collective born as a direct response to the 9-11 attacks to help and promote emerging Arab artists.
In 2006, El Khalil kept a blog during the Israeli invasion of Lebanon: beirutupdate.blogspot.com, a humanist and personal journal of the siege and its impact on the people around her. She was one of the first widely followed bloggers from the Middle East; her blog received international attention and was published by news media such as CNN, BBC and The Guardian to name a few. Her book entitled Beirut, I Love You: A Memoir, written in English has already been translated into several languages, including Italian, Spanish, Swedish, Portuguese and German.
Her work has also been exhibited at institutions such as the Mori Art Museum in Japan; the Institut du Monde Arabe in Paris, the Boghossian Foundation in Brussels, the Royal College of Art in London, the National Gallery of Bosnia and Herzegovina in Sarajevo; The Barajeel Art Foundation in the United Arab Emirates, the Institut für Auslandsbeziehungen in Berlin, the White Box in Munich, and the Fondazione Merz in Turin.
Zena also undertakes an annual performance entitled “The Pink Bride of Peace”: during Beirut’s international marathon, she wears a large pink wedding dress with the aim of raising awareness about women’s rights in Lebanon.
In May 2008, she was invited by the Nobel Peace Center to participate in conference on freedom of expression on the Internet. And in 2012, Zena was selected to become a TED Fellow.