Forever since the beginning of time, through grand civilizations and forgotten epochs, from that of the ancient Cannanites to Lugal Banda and Gilgamesh of Sumer, from the Great Egyptian Pharaohs and the Hittites Kings to the ancient tales of the Phoenicians and the Old Testament, there have stood the Cedar trees of Lebanon strong and still for thousands of years since the dawn of creation.
Deep within the Cedar forests of Lebanon, in a land enriched with inexplicable mysticism, an artist of veiled talent was born. His name was Toufic.
Toufic was born in august 1946 on his forefathers’ land of Dweir, a small farm that lies between Tannourine and Haddath el Joubeh in the Northern Mountains of Lebanon. Toufic, the son of Jamil and Latiféh Mourad, and the brother of four, spent his childhood winters in Haddath el Joubeh and his summers in Dweir – Tannourine playing in the serene mountain surroundings.
In 1954, at the age of 8, Toufic’s father was killed, and he was sent to the orphanage of St Vincent in Beirut. It was at the orphanage where Toufic’s interest in woodcarving commenced. Trained as a carpenter and musician at the orphanage, Toufic became fascinated by the art of woodcarving and sculpting and sought lessons in the field from a master of the craft, George Tawil. By the age of 18, Toufic had opened his own woodcarving business in Tripoli (North Lebanon) where he created his first individual sculpture designs.
At the age of 22, Toufic migrated to Australia where he eventually became well known as ‘Tom the woodcarver’. At first, Tom found much difficulty adjusting to the new lifestyle. Having to learn a new language, and fit into such a diverse culture. It took some time before he could utilize his wood carving skills in the country.
Tom opened his own woodcarving business in Balmain, Sydney, where he became well known for his unique detail in antique restoration and reproduction. He worked on hundreds of sculptures, antique reproductions (including some work for the Government) and furniture pieces that have since been scattered all over the world.
Tom’s art has previously been documented by ABC TV and Channel 10.
He has held several exhibitions around Sydney, including the School of Arts, Sydney University and has displayed his masterful artwork at ‘The Middle Eastern Exhibition’ over several years. As an ambassador for the Australian – Lebanese community, Tom has played a major role in representing both his motherland and his adoptive mother by presenting his art to several personalities as a gift to last a lifetime. In 1986, Tom also created the famous statue of St Charbel (St Charbel’s Church in Punchbowl, Sydney) that was unveiled in front of an audience of thousands by the Prime Minister at the time, PM Bob Hawke.
Tom has also held a few private exhibitions overseas in his homeland Lebanon. These included Tannourine, Haddeth – el – Joubbeh, and Beirut.
Tom also appeared on a live interview on LBC (The Lebanese Broadcasting Corporation), where a full footage on his life and artwork was documented and broadcast via satellite reaching a worldwide audience in Australia, the Middle East, Africa, Brazil, the U.K and the U.S.A.
Unlike most of his contemporaries in the industry, Tom’s skills range from antique restoration, wood carving, staircase design/production, furniture manufacturing to sculpting. However vast his talents might be, Tom’s passion lies in wooden sculpting.
Known as the “Woodpecker”, Tom does not like to use timber for his art work. As he stated once on a television interview: “I would cut off my hands before I would cut a tree down!”. All of Tom’s sculptures are carved from dead tree trunks that are brought back to life to live on.
Tom’s sculptures blend a unique fusion of contemporary classical to modern abstract expression. He has dedicated his life’s work to his family, his homeland, and his passion for life. Tom currently resides in Canterbury, Australia.