I’ve guided the design and crafts tour during the 2nd edition of Amman Design Week, the title of the tour was named after my new established project: ElHARF, which will be the home of calligraphy and Arabic visual arts.
The tour started from Calligrapher Shehadeh Haroun’s shop, to meet him and learn from his experience in silkscreen printing, Haroun still using the old-school methods that he acquired from the sign painters of Damascus once he was there 50 years ago! I’ve collaborated with Haroun to produce the English lettering of Amman Design Week, and to demonstrate the essential skills and give some funny tips for the tour members.
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.
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.
At one evening in October 2013, I sat down with the Jordanian director Naji Abu Nowar to discuss the collaboration between me and him to design the Arabic main title and credits for his new feature film Theeb, I was more than excited to take the job, it was a great honor for me to work with such a brilliant director like Naji, for a great shining opportunity in the Arab film industry.
My initial quick sketches with Naji, discussing styles and calligraphy approach.
We agreed to adapt the Nastaliq calligraphic style, that relates to the Ottoman official signage system that was popular in our region in 1916, where the film’s events are happening in. Continue reading →
I was impressed with this amazing collection of Islamic seals on different manuscripts from various Islamic cultures and ages, this database was collected by Chester Beatty Library in Dublin from their own fine archive of manuscripts, more than 2600 seal impressions were found and documented!
I’ve picked some of them to share with you, copy rights are reserved to Chester Beatty Library:
identifier W.608.000703|date 2010-09-01|creator The Walters Art Museum (Baltimore/MD/USA)|contributor The Walters Islamic Manuscript Digital Project|contributor Bockrath, Diane|contributor Tabritha, Ariel|contributor Emery, Doug|contributor Gacek, Adam|contributor Gerry, Kathryn|contributor Noel, William|contributor Quandt, Abigail|format image/tiff|description This is an image of folio 351a from Walters MS W.608, Five poems (quintet), on paper, written by Ilyas ibn Yusuf Nizami Ganjavi, copied by Habib Allah ibn `Ali ibn Husam, Rabi II 971 AH / 1563 CE|rights Licensed for use under Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported Access Rights, http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-sa/3.0/legalcode. It is requested that copies of any published articles based on the information in this data set be sent to the curator of manuscripts, The Walters Art Museum, 600 North Charles Street, Baltimore MD 21201.|source Walters Art Museum Ms. W.608, folio 351a|title Walters MS W.608, Five poems (quintet)|type Image|subject Codex|subject Manuscript|subject Persian|subject Walters Art Museum|subject Persian|subject Literary — Poetry
My next little project is to make one seal for my name inspired by these designs.. stay tuned!
Yes! I finally met Helmi El Touni! A great master that filled my childhood with bold drawings and unique calligraphic styles.. I met him during Nuqat 2015 conference in Kuwait, it was one of best things happened to me in my entire life!
I can’t hide my happiness! He also signed the Yasmin Taan book about him, and he wrote there: To dear Hussein, the precious colleague 🙂
Another great thing besides all of this, was El Touni exhibition, where he showed the original artworks and sketches of his old works, seeing those masterpieces face to face was a great honor for me.
El Touni is a special character, his thoughts and works will be always inspiring me.
While I was in Kuwait last time, I couldn’t resist visiting Tareq Rajab Museum, I was truly SHOCKED! A massive amount of Islamic pieces from all around the world! I haven’t see such collection at any other museum!
I took couple hundred of photos there, here I selected some to share with you:
1- Calligraphy collection from Syria
By Badawi Al Derani
By Mamdouh Al Sharif
By Adib Jabban
By Amin, calligrapher and signpainter from Damascus
In March 2015, I was invited to conduct a workshop for the design students at the Dar Al Hekma University in Jeddah, during its international design symposium: Reinventing the Vernacular. My workshop theme was ‘Contemporary Arabic Calligraphy’, which I introduced my vision of developing the art of Arabic calligraphy, and how it can be blended into other modern visual forms, and keeping its soul and originality in the same time. The workshop has focused on the practical aspects, by asking students to sketch, play, experiment and then try to come up with genuine artworks that reflect each student own style and point of view.
Teaching Arabic calligraphy is a vital issue to me, and I used to organise and give many workshops to teach that Art and spreading its splendours, especially when I connect it with design and Arabic visual culture. But in this time, I had the privilege to teach young kids from Syria, who moved with their families to Istanbul after the war crises in their home country.
I’ve conducted two workshops, the first one was in elementary school for Syrian students in Beylikdüzü district west of Istanbul, for around 12 students from different age groups. Then the second workshop that took place in the 16th century historic library of the Yavuz Sultan Salim Mosque in the heart of old Istanbul-ian neighbourhood; at Fatih district.
Anyway, the place it self was a total surprise for me.. I was told that I’ll teach kids in a mosque.. I couldn’t believe that the mosque would be a 500 years old building!
Though I insisted to give those workshops using the traditional calligraphy tools; which might be difficult for young kids — but the results of both workshops were magnificent! the students were so interacted with the tools and letters, they challenged their selves to improve the way they write, and in the end; they produced a beautiful artworks they were proud of. It was a great experience for me and for the kids as well, even their parents were so happy for their children efforts to learn such a joyful and cultural/visual art. Please enjoy looking at photos from the workshops down here.