Thursday, January 6, 2011

Reclaiming Cultural Identity through Design

In the 21st Century Arabic calligraphy is influencing a new generation of Middle Eastern and North African artists and designers. From graphic design to furniture, The Polyglot explores the work of six innovative designers turning an age-old tradition on its head.

Dia Battal Beirut-born Dia Battal is considered one of the Middle East’s rising stars in the field of design. Blurring the line between art and function, Battal is a London-based artist, industrial designer and interior decorator. She has created large scale outdoor murals in Bahrain, collaborated with furniture designer Nada Debs on an iconic floating stool and completed the interiors for a residential project in Beirut. What binds her work together is a distinctive rounded calligraphy that has become her signature.

Reza Abedini
There is a new generation of graphic designers in Iran who are reshaping Persia’s visual culture. Amongst this group is Reza Abedini, a world renowned designer and a professor of graphic design at Tehran University. His work often combines modern and traditional themes, producing an updated take on Persian typography. As well as being a jury member at several biennials throughout the world, he has received numerous awards for focusing attention on the diversity found within modern Iranian culture.

Lalla Essaydi
New York-based Moroccan artist Lalla Essaydi has been attracting the art world’s attention with her series of portraits “Les Femmes du Maroc.” Before taking a photograph she will first apply layers of Arabic calligraphy using henna, onto her models as well as the backdrop. Her work explores “complex female identities” found throughout the Muslim world, as well as stereotypes of Middle Eastern women found in 19th Century Orientalist paintings.

Pascal Zoghbi
Lebanese Pascal Zoghbi, is amongst the most innovative Arabic type designers working today. Consistently pushing the boundaries of graphic design in the region with his bold posters and web designs, Pascal has also created new Arabic fonts such as “Sada” a bold rounded type that has appeared on everything from newspapers to labels on wine bottles. An active member of the Khatt Foundation, he has lectured and exhibited his work around the world, and teaches graphic design and typography courses at Lebanese American University and Notre Dame University in Beirut.

Anas Younis Shanaah
The Jordanian architect turned shoe designer, is the name behind the coveted label Aennis Eunis. Shanaah learnt the secrets of the trade in New York and Italy, before returning to his native Amman. In 2009, he launched what is arguably the hottest footwear label to have emerged from the Middle East in recent years. In a short period of time, Anas has developed a signature style that melds innovative design with precision cut calligraphy. Yet the designer points out that his well-crafted creations go beyond simply “slapping writing on a shoe.” It is not only an opportunity for Shanaah to engage his roots though design, but also reintroduce an age-old tradition to a new generation.

Nadine Kanso
Beirut-born designer/photographer Nadine Kanso uses her work to explore contemporary Arab identities. A background in journalism and advertising informed Nadine early on, especially when it came to the power of Arabic text. In 2006, the Dubai-based Kanso launched her jewelry line, appropriately called Bil Arabi (which literally translates to “in Arabic”). Combining her love of typography with her Arabic roots, Nadine’s pieces recall a time when jewelry came with a specific message attached to it. Over the years her work has been featured at Design Miami as well as Kuwait’s Al Sabah Art and Design Gallery. In 2010 she was commissioned by Christie’s to design a piece for an auction highlighting the work of the region’s most innovative jewelry designers.

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1 comment:

LallaLydia said...

Excellent roundup of some extraordinary young talent. I've loved Reza Abidini's work for a while now, but those were all new images to me. Thanks, Alex!