Press release El HEMA 22 August 2007

Arabic version of the famous Dutch department store HEMA

Controversial exhibition opens on Friday

Amsterdam 22 augustus 2007 - What would an Arabic version of the famous Dutch Department store HEMA look like? On Friday 24 August, at 17.00, the controversial exhibition EL HEMA will open at Mediamatic in Amsterdam, the Netherlands. El HEMA is an exhibition of surprising, touching and sometimes provoking designs, all using five new Arabic typefaces. The exhibition is part of a series of activities concerning Dutch-Arabic cultural exchange by Mediamatic and the Khatt Foundation.

Mediamatic is looking at Arabic-Dutch art, design and culture. The cultural institution wondered what an Arabic Hema would be like. The department store Hema is the most public manifestation of Dutch culture. You have countries who find their identity in churches, gardens or bathing houses. The Dutch tend to identify with the Hema; the living monument of practical colorful clearness with value for your money. The Hema is the alif and baa (abc) of cultural integration. That is why the Arabic Hema directly calls upon our imagination: it is the image of some future Arabic Netherlands.

For the exhibition a large number of EL HEMA products were made by nearly 20 designers from Lebanon, Kuwait, The Netherlands and other countries. Do-it-yourself Djelebba's, a halal version of the famous Dutch smoked sausage and Arabic chocolate letters, another Dutch speciality, are amongst the newly designed products. Other examples are T-shirts with arabic pickup lines, a shirt with kosjer written in Arabic and halal in hebrew, North African whine and a special El Hema condom set.

Last month the EL HEMA exhibition caused great commotion in the Dutch press when the real HEMA threatened with legal action if Mediamatic Foundation wouldn't immediately halt its art project EL HEMA. Mediamatic and HEMA later reconciled but on various internet forums fierce discussions appeared and Mediamatic received hate mails. People mistakingly judged the EL HEMA as being anti-Dutch. The exhibition, on the contrary, tries to positively change the preconceived ideas many people in the West have about the Arabic world.

El HEMA Design competition

El Hema is also a Design Contest. Everybody can submit ideas for El HEMA products on the website. Each week we will choose the best submission, which will immediately be produced and included in the exhibition. On the 3rd of November El HEMA will be finished. That is when, during the annual MuseumNight the festive award ceremony will take place, and the winner of the El HEMA Design Competition will be known. All submitted ideas will remain property of the submitter.

Khatt Kufi & Kaffiya symposium

On the day of the 24th of August the opening of El HEMA will be celebrated with the symposium Khatt, Kufi & Kaffia on contemporary Arabic visual culture. At the symposium, 5 new Arabic fonts will be presented. The fonts are a result of a special collaboration of Dutch and Arabic typographers which was organized by the Khatt Foundation. That is also when the book Typographical Matchmaking will come out. In that book, Huda Abifares will describe the intercultural collaboration that led to the new letters. In all products and in the shop design of the EL HEMA these fonts will be used. For more details check:


The opening will take place on Friday 24 August from 17.00 - 20.00, with a El HEMA fashion show at 18.00. [Starting from November 21th 2007 the openingtimes will be Wednesday, Thursday, Friday and Saturday from 12.00 to 20.00, and on Sunday from 14.00 to 18.00]. The exhibition and design competion will continue untill 6 January 2008.

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For more information contact Willem Velthoven, director of Mediamatic at 0031 (0)20 6389901 or mobile at 0031 (0)6 - 46078777
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Foto: EL HEMA fashion collection, photo by Marieke Bijster / Mediamatic

Logo: The El HEMA logo is designed by Tarek Atrissi with TheMix Arabic typeface. TheMix Arabic is made by Luc(as) Groot and Mouneer Al-Shaarani, with support of Pascal Zoghbi.