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.

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ISIS Typography

Since the creation of ISIS in 2013, I witnessed as an Arab and Muslim citizen the bloody image of ISIS, and their strong media presence as well, and I observed the usage of type and calligraphy in their designs for social media and other outlets. In this post, I’ll show my findings* for ISIS designs and will comment on them.

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The official logo and flag of ISIS, which is the stamp of prophet Mohammad under the “Shahada” phrase that say: There is no god but Allah. The typographic style here is mimicking the stamp design in the 7th century, very basic, primitive and without any diacritic marks. ISIS used this design to declare their rights of “Khelafa” or caliphate. While in fact, the prophet Mohammad have not used his stamp as a war symbol, he used it as a personal stamp on messages to invite other rulers in the region to know about Islam. (We didn’t see the real stamp or its impression, the current known one is fake and was made by a Turkish artisan in the 19th century, the words’ order in the fake stamp above is wrong, Arabic words should stack over each other from top to down not the apposite)

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