Taste and contradiction

Few day ago, Queen Rania has published a nice photo on her Instagram celebrating the valentine day with King Abdullah II:

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Minimal gray tones outfit, and simple heart shaped cake! 

 

Immediately my eyes caught the artwork in their room: a beautiful piece by the renown Tunisian artist Nja Mahdaoui.

Nja is well known, his works are surrounding the world in all directions, and of course, he was the first Arab artist that wraps entire airplanes with his art, and maybe he is the first artist who uses lettering and calligraphy on such canvas – I really envy this man!

So, no wonder that the Queen and the King picked such a sophisticated piece of art in their home. A great taste by a chic couple!

Nja created a new movement for the Arabic calligraphy art, he was the pioneer of manipulating the Arabic letters to create a designed visuals, before even the Arabic calligraffiti was born.

Now we come to the second photo.

Sometimes, I waste my time by following up the news in my region, and especially the news of the war in Syria. So, I happened to see an interview with Bashar Al-Assad from his home or presidential palace.. I’m not sure, then my eye caught this:

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Modern home design pieces, elegant cufflinks, short suit jacket sleeves (!), hands are clashing, eyes are weird, and finally: A beautiful framed artwork by Mounir El-Shaarani!

What a coincidence!

Let me talk a bit about Mounir:

Mounir El-Shaarani is an iconic influence for all Arab artists and designers (I excluded Arab classical calligraphers because they don’t like him) I met him once in 2008 here in Amman, such a lovely and wise man.

Mounir has worked in diverse areas, he contributed to the Arabic type design by creating TheMix Arabic font with Pascal Zoghbi and Lucas de groot. Also he produced too many book cover designs and inner layouts for famous Arab magazines.

Mounir has another approach when it comes to his practice in Arabic calligraphy, he focused on the content very deeply, then he executed the artwork with minimal colors and symmetrical classical layouts, the content issue makes Mounir an exceptional artist. For example, if you looked at all Muslim and Arab calligraphers in the past 500 years you’ll see all of their works have either a Quraanic or religious content, only!with a very few religious poetry as well. There is no prominent calligrapher has the courage to write something about the people needs, the street issues or about war or sufferings that a nation is facing. But Mounir; beside his modern poetry works and the common sufism quotes; he has extended his scope to reach the Syrian revolution matter in 2011, he produced stunning works that celebrate freedom, prisoners, arrested women and the national Syrian unity against the war.

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Artwork about the “Free Woman”

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Artwork about the “Homeland”, inspired by the colors of the Syrian flag. 

No one has the guts before Mounir to do that, many calligraphers think in a naive way, they want to write any Quraanic verse and sell it directly to any wealthy customer, this is so pathetic in my opinion! And it has caused that freezing in the development of Arabic calligraphy art.

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A Poster that urges the world to stop killing in Syria: No one is listening dear Mounir.

 

I can’t believe that such a bloody beastly man like Bashar Al-Assad is interested in Mounir’s work! It’s totally against Assad’s and his regime!!

Something wrong!

It was clearly intentionally to put this piece and to show it in a good presence in the interview, I think they want to send a message to the world:

“Dear World,

We are a classy people and a very humanistic regime, we appreciate art and design, we support local artists, and we do love Damascus / Sham and admires Mahmoud Darwish’s words about it, we are the truly civilized face of Syria, please help us to fight *terror.

*terror: we mean by it all of the children, women, men, art, history, agriculture, folklore, past, future, knowledge, education, happiness, peace, joy and smiles in Syria.”

Yours sincerely,
Assad and Co.”

I’m very sad to finish this post with such a sarcastic/tragic way. I wanted to highlight the true taste of a wise man with his family from Amman that he loves to keep safe, and 200 km north of it a vampire beast of Damascus is lying to us, and to the whole world.

Old photos of Amman

I usually spend a lot of hours digging the internet for old photos about cities that I admire: Amman, Damascus, Cairo ..etc. It’s really interesting to see how these cities evolved!

This time, I’ll be sharing some photos of Amman, from the 20’s till the 90’s. You’ll notice that most of them are having a nice and well-designed shop signs; which is my well-known passion!

Photos have been collected from different websites, copyrights are reserved for their owners. Captions are available for most of the photos.

Enjoy!

Authentic again!

Like any other vivid city, Amman has its own aesthetic and well-designed shop signs. Looking back at Amman’s photos from the 60’s and 70’s, up until the few ones left nowadays; one can identify the highly flavored visual identity placed above each shop entrance. The signs were designed and produced by local sign painters, using their own taste in calligraphy, colors, composition and sometimes logo design. They were the designers of their era, without any academic direction or any written guidelines to follow, just a pure spontaneous design practice.

Unfortunately, this vital craft has vanished with the rise of computer graphics and mega size printers, and nowadays it is near extinction.

As part of my participation in Amman Design Week 2016; I’ve brought back two of the authentic sign painting masters to the scene, to produce new signage for ‘The Crafts District’ shops in the Raghadan area, and to create a real encounter between the craft masters and the designers of Amman.

Curator of ‘The Crafts District’: Dina Haddadin

Text and photography: Hussein Alazaat

كأي مدينة أخرى تضج بالحياة، فإن عمّان تملك ذوقها الخاص في لافتات المحال التجارية، وبالتتبع لصور الشوارع واللافتات في عمّان منذ الستينات والسبعينات وانتهاءً بما تبقى منها في أيامنا هذه، نجد الهوية البصرية المرتبطة بنكهة المكان والأشخاص والأعمال في المدينة على لافتات جميلة فوق مداخل المحلات، تم تصميم وتنفيذ هذه اللوحات على يد خطاطي عمّان، والذين قاموا باستخدام فراشيهم وأدواتهم، وفهمهم للتصميم والتكوين الحروفي، وذوقهم بالألوان والظلال والتأثيرات، قاموا بمقام “المصممين” المتفردين بالمدينة، خاصة عندما نرى أن بعضهم تجاوز مساحة اللافتة إلى تصميم شعارات ومواد طباعية أخرى مثلاً. كل ذلك بمنهج عفوي بسيط يتكلم مع الشارع والزبائن وضيوف المدينة بلهجة واضحة مفهومة ثنائية اللغة في معظم الأحيان.

لسوء الحظ، تم القتل التدريجي لهذه الحرفة مع ظهور الكمبيوتر والطابعات الضخمة وانخفاض الذوق العام والسعي نحو السرعة والرخص، يمكننا القول بأن حرفة صناعة الآرمات قد انقرضت الآن بشكل كبير.
ضمن مشاركتي بأسبوع عمّان للتصميم في نسخته الأولى، قمت بالتعاون الفني مع اثنين من “الخطاطين المعلمين” القدامى لهذه الحرفة، وعملنا سوية لانتاج لافتات/آرمات جديدة لـ “حي الحرف” في مجمع رغدان السياحي، لإحياء هذه الحرفة من جديد ولخلق مواجهة جديدة بين شيوخ هذا الكار ومصممي عمّان.

 

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Signpainter Abed Jukhy (Born in Amman, 1930) Holding his tools box. Mr. Jukhy is practicing his craft with great passion! despite all of the health issues he is facing! He is still offering his services in his authentic workshop that is located  in Prince Mohammad street, since the 1960’s.

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Amman Panoramic Map 1995

While exploring my archive I’ve stumbled on this map of Amman, it was published by “International Media Services”, as you see their credentials at the map footer.

It’s really a strange thing to find! I don’t recall how it came into my archive.. it’s like seeing a visualised memory directly in my hands. Anway, the map is really interesting, it shows you  the brands, shops, venues and landmarks of Amman two decades ago, I’m sure many of us still remembering few parts of this map, the map of a vivid city who changed a lot.

The map, obviously, was drawn by hand, the artist who done that used some weird orientations, so you find Rainbow street is west of Al-Husseini Mosque and they share the same horizontal level, then you keep going west until you reach Abdoun, a few steps after Abdoun you find yourself in the Queen Alia Airport! Funny..

However, the artist made a good effort to draw the building’s facade, I was impressed to see some iconic buildings of Amman drawn in a nice way, it seems like someone did a big research for photos and logos, and delivered them to the artist’s hands.

Many brands in this map have been extinct, and many are still surviving, but it still Amman that we love!

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Bilingual Typography at the map’s masthead.

 

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Good job on drawing this building, still exist on the Queen Rania Street.

 

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Childhood memories at Jollibee restaurant in Shmaisany.

 

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You can download a high-res photo of the map from here.: https://www.flickr.com/photos/alazaat/27737641776