El HEMA Koopavond 6

Weekly cultural exchange

26 Jul 2007

The thursday brainstorming sessions for the El HEMA exhibition double as a community cultural forum, bringing together individuals from all realms of art.

Good Arabs, “Bad Arabs,” nostalgic Arabs, distinguished Arabs, non-Arabs and everything in between. Contemporary design, films, fashion, history, literature, henna and even delicious Middle Eastern food. What are intended to be weekly Thursday meetings to discuss the progression of the upcoming El HEMA exhibition are fast becoming memorable evenings of cultural exchange.

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El Hema koopavond 6: The weekly cultural exchange at Mediamatic -

The Exhibit

“It’s quite rare to have an informal setting where one can sit with people, share research or work in progress—even share a meal together,” said independent curator Nat Muller who attended the 6th weekly Thursday meeting for the first time.

The exhibit, set to open August 24, will be an inventive way to display five new Arabic fonts by utilizing them in products likely to be found in an Arabic version of a pseudo-Hema store. Tarek Atrissi, an art director for the El HEMA exhibition and one of 10 new font designers, said everyone working on the project has their own specific task. Thursday meetings are a forum for communicating the progress on logo designs, products, clothing, architectural advancements and even the legal status of the exhibit, he said.

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El HEMA Koopavond 6: The weekly cultural exchange at Mediamatic - Presentatie tijdens EL Hema koopavond 6 Graphic desigh intern Maria Hakim gave a presentation on one of the five new Arabic fonts Big Vesta, to be on display at the El HEMA exhibition on August 24. Marieke Bijster

With: Maria Hakim

“It’s a way to show how things are coming along, as well as inspire those interested in Arab art to come along and show what they have and get ideas on merging both worlds,” Atrissi said.

Because the aim of the project was not entirely clear in the beginning when the brainstorming for the project began six weeks ago, Atrissi said the Amsterdam community was invited to attend the Thursday meetings in order to collect and exchange ideas between the designers and those interested in Arabic culture.

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Joann DeLuna taking notes from Raouf Mousad Basta - at El Hema koopavond 6 Joann DeLuna taking notes from Raouf Mousad Basta at one of the El HEMA "Koopavonden" July 2007. The El HEMA "Koopavonden" were public research meetings organized by Mediamatic. During these " Koopavonden" artists, designers and other specialists discussed and presented their ideas for a Arabic HEMA. Photo by Marieke Bijster. Writer Raoulf Mousad Basta discusses his past experiences as an Egyptian and his views on the El Hema project with Mediamatic journalist… Marieke Bijster

Highlights

Mediamatic invited Muller to the meeting because of her experience with media and art in the Middle East. Her screening of three short films by Middle Eastern directors towards the end of the evening was a favorite of the night.

Muller said she chose the films because they each portray the danger of stereotypes, for example, by taking stereotypes to an extreme as in the case of “Planet of the Arabs.” She cautions that organizers of El Hema should be careful not to fall into the very stereotypes they are trying to break.

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Arabic food - El Hema Koopavond 6 Azar Perzische keuken Marieke Bijster

“I’m very curious to see how it will all turn out,” Muller said. “[El HEMA] holds integrity and potential, but if it’s not done smartly it can fall into Orientalism.”

The five graphic design interns from Lebanon and Dubai working on El HEMA also introduced the design concepts behind the five new fonts. The designers further explained that most of the new fonts could be used for long texts, such as magazines, as well as large displays.

“It’s influenced by past fonts but in a very modern way,” intern Raya Tueny said of the new Fresco font.

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Willem Velthoven showing the Khamsa Tank-Top - El Hema Koopavond 6 Mediamatic Director Willem Velthoven presents one of the recently created clothing designs that will be available at the El HEMA exhibit set to open on August 24. Marieke Bijster

After legal status and merchandise updates, Etty Elbaz-Griffioen an Arab-Jew born in Jerusalem who now lives in the Netherlands, gave an intimate presentation of her henna tattoo art form, which complemented the font theme of the evening.

Egyptian writer Raouf Mokssad Basta who now lives in Amsterdam, attended the meeting hoping to offer his literature background to the project, but said he was a bit confused about what organizers are trying to do with the project, he said. “I’m interested in the idea.”

Both Muller and Basta said they enjoyed the Thursday meetings and would continue to attend and possibly be more involved in the final exhibit.

“I think the Mediamatic people who direct the meetings are very open for ideas and want to listen to Arabs about the project,” Basta said.

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Presenting Transit Beirut - Nat Muller presenting a book called, "Transit Beirut" during one of the El HEMA "Koopavonden" 2007. The El HEMA "Koopavonden" were public research meetings organized by Mediamatic. Here artists, designers and other specialists could discuss and present their ideas about a Arabic HEMA. Photo by Marieke Bijster. Independent curator Nat Muller screened three short films by Middle Eastern directors and talked about misrepresentations the western world may hold about… Marieke Bijster

With: Nat Muller
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Video van Sharif Waked - Video van Sharif Waked tijdens El Hema Koopavond 6 Photo by Marieke Bijster. "Chic Point" was one of the short films screened by Nat Muller. It was a statement on the embarrasment Arab men have to endure when approaching checkpoints. The director created a line of clothing specifically for the purpose men approaching of checkpoints. Marieke Bijster

With: Sharif Waked
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Presentation of the font Sada - Wael Morcos presents Sada, one of the five fonts that will be showcased at the El Hema exhibit. He explains the influences the designers of the font utilized to create the font.

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El HEMA Koopavond 6 - Presentation during one of the El HEMA "Koopavonden" 2007 The El HEMA "Koopavonden" were public research meetings organized by Mediamatic. Here artists, designers and other specialists could discuss and present their ideas about a Arabic HEMA. Maaike Gottschal updates meeting attendees on the progress of the El HEMA clothing line.

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Photo by Khajag Apelian (KJ) Meeting attendees gather around henna-tattoo artist Etty Elbaz-Griffioen as she explains her roots and her art. -

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Graphic design intern Khajag Apelian, better known as KJ, presents The Mix font, one of the five fonts to be showcased at the El Hema exhibit. The Mix was designed by graphic designers Lucas de Groot and Mouneer Al-Shaarani. -