Adonis Diaries

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Who is Malu Halasa? Publication design? The Mosaic Rooms conducted an interview…

The Mosaic Rooms posted this Sept. 13, 2013

Q&A with author, writer, editor and curator Malu Halasa

Malu Halasa will be in conversation with Nicolas Bellavance-Lecompte, co-founder of Carwan Gallery and Lebanese designer, Najla El Zein on Saturday 14 September, 12pm at The Mosaic Rooms. FREE, rsvp@mosaicrooms.org

1/ What Middle Eastern design are you looking at?

Because I write and produce books that have a visual component to them, I’m very interested in publications design from the region. Dar Onboz produces a wide range of material from children’s books to flip books, films, music, and shadow puppet plays.

It is a cornucopia of compelling innovative design. Pascal Zoghbi is an Arabic typographer and graphic designer at the studio 29 Letters who has co-edited groundbreaking books such as Arabic Graffiti.

There is the multidisciplinary design team from Solidere, under the creative direction of Nathalie El Mir, the group behind the biannual urbanist and architectural journal I was working for, in Beirut, Portal 9: Stories and Critical Writing about the City, edited by Fadi Tofeili.

I also always keep up with the projects of my co-editor of The Secret Life of Syrian LingerieRana Salam. She was instrumental in teaching me how to ‘read’ the Arab street.

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Cornucopia of compelling design by Lebanese publishers, artists and musicians Dar Onboz.

Their book Saba’a w 7, with illustrations by Fadi Adleh and story by Nadine Touma, was turned into a shadow puppet play in collaboration with Collectif Kahraba.

2/ You have a varied working life as an author, writer, editor and curator, what is the current project that you are working on?

With my two co-editors/co-curators Aram Tahhan and Nawara Mahfoud, I am presently finishing Syria Speaks: Art and Culture from the Frontline, an anthology of art and writing from the Syrian uprising.

The book features cartoons, comic strips, art and photography alongside critical essays, and literature. Our contributors include writers Khaled Khalifa, Samer Yazbek, Yassin El Haj Saleh, Hassan Abbas, Yara Badr, Rasha Omran, and Ali Safar and artists Ali Ferzat, Masasit Mati, Alshaab Alsori Aref Tarekh, Youseff Abdelki, Khalil Younes, and Sulafa Hijazi, among many others

Syria Speaks came out of the exhibitions of Syrian uprising art that the three of us did in 2012-13 in Amsterdam, Copenhagen and London. The book, which will be published next year, is supported by the Prince Claus Fund for Culture and Development, in Amsterdam.

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Syria Speaks will be published in English by Saqi Books in London and in Arabic by Dar Saqi in Beirut, next year.

Cover design by James Nunn showing an image from a political poster by the anonymous Syrian artists collective Alshaab Alsori Aref Tarekh.

3/ Beirut has been described as ‘the Berlin of the Middle East’ by the two founders of Carwan Gallery, what similarities do you see?

Despite the political upheavals in Lebanon and on its borders, creatives in Beirut keep producing.

Sivine Ariss from Dar Onboz just explained to me over skype now, “Our work is our resistance.

In many ways Beirut is not like Berlin. But like Berlin, Beirut supports its artists and designers by nourishing them culturally. Through these imaginative interactions with Arab culture – story telling and the oral tradition, and and with materials and the history of making in the region, Ariss and others provide new understanding not just about another place but life as it is lived now. Their work has meaning for us all.


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