Skip to main content

Type Research Diary part IV

And مع السلامة as the course ends. I meet my two volunteers, two young ladies who are prepared to brave me. It's not all that hard.

Selecting a third member of the class, we leave the room to a quiet place where we might talk for half an hour without too much noise in the background. We end up in one of thr noisier student- run cafés that grace the FU (and open at nine, remember that.). This turns out not to matter too much, as the recorder slept in today. Lucky you.

I am lucky in that the three interviewees come from different backgrounds. The ones who have already travelled to Arab countries, those who grew up with a mixed background, those who grew up in the local background… For now their identities must be withheld.

As I try to keep up with furious notes, they introduce themselves. At this stage, there is not much more I can ask of them. In preparation for these interviews I have prepared a sheet of type for them, showing Arabic and Latin script in various constellations — Arabic on top, below, beside the Latin, in addition to subtle variations in typesetting.

This is the beginning of what will hopefully be an enlightening exploration of bilingual typeography, the more practical part of these interviews. My intention is to examine how to set a Latin- Arabic combination for print and for the web in ways that respect the very different traditions even as they are combined into something new, yet legible and pleasant. This unscientific test is to provide me with an entry point, divorced from street signs and bilingual websites. We'll get to those later.

Interestingly enough, opinions are seemingly divided accross gender lines. The female eye seems to prefer to have the arabic script first, justified, followed by the Latin text. Meanwhile, the male eye prefers to have two colums of left- and right- aligned text to skim over and compare. One may wonder briefly what causes this difference in perception, then be reminded that this is the first interview and that a few more opinions will probably emerge before jumping to conclusions.

Feeling like I am about to step through the looking glass, we end the interview, make loose appointments for a second round and go our way.


Popular posts from this blog

IGAF: Lying on Camera // Astounding Armaments

Nizar Qabbani wrote his epic poem "When Will They Announce the Death of Arabs" in 1994.

He was living in London at the time, far from his native Syria, watching the world he had grown up in and represented as a diplomat from afar. America had launched operation Desert Storm- a storm that lasts to this day- two years prior, and marked 1993 with the launch of 23 cruise missiles on Iraq. Qabbani will die of a heart attack in 1998.

In 18 stanzas, he explores the wishes and dreams he once carried, describes, however tribes and nations at war, that believe that secret services (like a cold, or a headache) are part of some heavenly order. He bemoans that the idea of the "Arab Nation" (possibly derived from the Pan-Arabist ideology that was crystallised during the Nasser years) has never come into being. He has been trying to draw a picture all his life, but his crayons have been taken away. He has watched wars- on TV, he has tried to imagine the idea of a peaceful Arab unio…

In Taheyya we Trust - How an Egyptian bellydancer found her posthumous stage in Berlin

“You should have winked at her,” Aida said dismissively, as if such a possibility had been imaginable for someone as timid as I was. Tahia Carioca was the most stunning and long-lived of the Arab world’s Eastern dancers (belly-dancers, as they are called today).
Edward Said, Farewell to Taheyya

My story with Taheyya begins in the summer of 2016, at Bulbuls Caféin Görlitzer Str. in Berlin. It ends two blocks down on Wiener Str 17. 

Bulbuls is a café and art space around my corner that I have grown to like to sit in and drink smoothies (1). He had commissiond us- a crew of Syrian and Egyptian artists, as well as myself, to paint the walls inside the café. El Tenneen (the Dragon) is the one who ended up drawing Sheikh Imam, with the help of Salam Alhassan (known as Salahef/ Turtles) and Sulafa Hijazis (whom we call El Hayya/The Snake’s) beamers’ illumination. The Sheikh sits happily in the place to this day and Crew El-Zoo was born.

Tenneen had the advantage of knowing immediately what he wa…

Two minutes: Love

Love is a big word that has been filled with so many meanings that for me to strain its contours by doing more than writing it out in pretty letters is to do it a disservice. There is much to discover about the content of the word- go out and find it for yourself and fill it with your own meanings, which only experience can give you.

Like religion, discovering love is deeply personal- books and people can help guide you, and give your understanding a foundation and context, but what love ends up being for you cannot be determined by anyone but you.

Maybe we need a new word for love.