A History of Arab Graphic Design

Book Conversations

01 JUN 2021 | 18.00

Global Africa: The State of African Studies in the 21st Century

The Africa Institute is pleased to present its series, Book Conversations, launching summer 2021. The program aims to highlight new books by African and Africanist authors in the fields of humanities, arts and social sciences.

On June 1, 2021, at 6pm (Gulf Standard Time), Professor Bahia Shehab and Haytham Nawar, the authors of the book A History of Arab Graphic Design will be in conversation with Salah M. Hassan, Director, The Africa Institute to discuss their new book.

The talk will be held on Zoom.

Click here to register

Ten author signed copies of the book will be available for purchase at the Africa Hall starting on the date of the book discussion. If you are interested in purchasing a copy, please email info@theafricainstitute.org with your request to receive further information.

Book Synopsis

Arab graphic design emerged in the early twentieth century out of a need to influence, and give expression to, the far-reaching economic, social, and political changes that were taking place in the Arab world at the time. But graphic design as a formally recognized genre of visual art only came into its own in the region in the twenty-first century and, to date, there has been no published study on the subject to speak of. A History of Arab Graphic Design traces the people and events that were integral to the shaping of a field of graphic design in the Arab world. Examining the work of over eighty key designers from Morocco to Iraq and covering the period from pre-1900 to the end of the twentieth century, Bahia Shehab and Haytham Nawar chart the development of design in the region, beginning with Islamic art and Arabic calligraphy, and their impact on Arab visual culture, through to the digital revolution and the arrival of the Internet. They look at how cinema, economic prosperity, and political and cultural events gave birth to and shaped the founders of Arab graphic design. Highlighting the work of key designers and stunningly illustrated with over 600 color images, A History of Arab Graphic Design is an invaluable resource tool for graphic designers, one which, it is hoped, will place Arab visual culture and design on the map of a thriving international design discourse.

Bahia Shehab

Bahia Shehab Professor of design and founder of the graphic design program at The American University in Cairo. Her work has been exhibited in museums, galleries and streets around the world. She has received a number of international recognitions and awards, which include the BBC 100 Women list, a TED Senior fellowship, a Bellagio fellowship, and a Prince Claus Award. She is the first Arab woman to receive the UNESCO-Sharjah Prize for Arab Culture. Shehab holds a PhD from Leiden University in The Netherlands and is the founding director of TypeLab@AUC. Her publications include You Can Crush the Flowers: A Visual Memoir of the Egyptian Revolution (2021), At The Corner of a Dream (2019), A Thousand Times NO (2010) and the co-authored award winning book A History of Arab Graphic Design (2020).

Haytham Nawar

Haytham Nawar is a practicing artist and designer, as well as a scholar in the fields of art and design. He has built his professional and academic career over the past two decades simultaneously fulfilling the different roles. He is Associate Professor of design and the Chair of the department of the arts at the American University in Cairo. Nawar is also the founding director of Cairotronica, Cairo International Electronic and New Media Arts Festival, Egypt. His most recent publications are Language of tomorrow: Towards a Multicultural Visual Communication System in a Post-Human Era and the co-authored book A History of Arab Graphic Design.

Salah M. Hassan

Salah M. Hassan is Distinguished Professor of Arts and Sciences in Africana Studies, and Director of the Institute for Comparative Modernities (ICM), and professor of art history and visual culture in the Africana Studies and Research Center, and the Department of History of Art and Visual Studies, Cornell University. Salah M. Hassan is the Director of The Africa Institute, Sharjah, UAE. He served as the Madeleine Haas Russell Professor, Departments of African and Afro-American Studies and Fine Arts, Brandeis University (2016-2018). Hassan is an art critic and curator, and editor and co-founder of Nka: Journal of Contemporary African Art (Duke University Press). He currently serves as member of the editorial advisory board of Atlantica, Journal of Curatorial Studies and International Journal of Middle Eastern Studies. He also served as consulting editor of African Arts. He authored, edited and co-edited several books including Darfur and the Crisis of Governance: A Critical Reader (2009), and Diaspora, Memory, Place (2008); Unpacking Europe (2001); Authentic/Ex-Centric (2001); Gendered Visions: The Art of Contemporary Africana Women Artists (1997); and Art and Islamic Literacy among the Hausa of Northern Nigeria (1992). He guest edited a special issue of SAQ: South Atlantic Quarterly, titled African Modernism (2010). His book Ibrahim El Salahi: A Visionary Modernist, was published in 2012 in conjunction with the retrospective of the Sudanese artist, Ibrahim El Salahi exhibited at The Tate Modern in London this past summer (July - October 2013) after premiering at the Sharjah Art Museum (in March 2013) in Sharjah, UAE. Most recently, Hassan edited and introduced, Ibrahim El-Salahi: Prison Notebook (New York and Sharjah, MOMA and SAF Publications, 2018). He has contributed essays to journals, anthologies and exhibition catalogues of contemporary art. He has curated several international exhibitions such as Authentic/Ex-Centric (49th Venice Biennale, 2001), Unpacking Europe (Rotterdam, 2001-02), and 3x3: Three Artists/Three: David Hammons, Maria Magdalena Campos-Pons, Pamela Z (Dak'Art, 2004). He also curated several exhibitions for the Sharjah Art Foundation including The Khartoum School: The Making of the Modern Art Movement in Sudan, 1945-2016 (2016-2017), and When Art Becomes Liberty: The Egyptian Surrealists (1938–1965) (2016). He is the recipient of several grants and fellowships, such as the J. Paul Getty Postdoctoral Fellowship, as well as major grants from the Sharjah Art Foundation, Ford, Rockefeller, Andy Warhol and Prince Claus Fund foundations. Most recently Hassan has been honored as the 2021 Distinguished Professor by the College Art Association, the oldest and largest scholarly organization for history and criticism of the visual arts.

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