Tuesday, March 18, 2008

NIHONTEN: Japan in Lebanon

By Antoine Abi Aaad

The Academie Libanaise des Beaux Arts, ALBA, University of Balamand recently organized a workshop and an exhibition “Nihonten” on the theme of Japan as seen by the Lebanese. Conducted by Antoine ABI AAD (Ph.D. in Design, University of Tsukuba in Japan), the purpose of the workshop was to expose a number of Lebanese advertising students to a new culture in order to open up their horizons. And indeed, one of the interesting outcomes of the workshop was the typographical mixing of Latin, Arabic and Japanese types. The 41 students from the school of Decorative Arts, section of Advertising and Graphic Arts followed the workshop for two weeks, and exhibited their works in the third week. ALBA is looking forward to exhibiting in Japan in the near future.

A new perspective on Arabic letters

Generally researchers and writers (especially westerners) tend to tackle the issue of Arabic letters from a religious angle. It somehow interests their public to frame Arabic within a religious context.

Beautiful religious works were executed in the Arab world through centuries of Islamic art, but it is high time that we stop reflecting the situation of the end of the 18th century, last great period of Arabic calligraphy (Othman), and look for/to new dimensions. Encouraging a new perspective at Arabic was one of the purposes of Nihonten, achieved through descriptions of Japan, in Arabic. A historical example would be that of the Spanish architect Antonio Gaudy who, although inspired by Arabic culture, was so original and so detached from traditional Arabic patterns: In that sense he made use of the heritage to move forward.
One of the new dimensions applied in Nihonten was the mixing of scripts: Latin/Arabic with Japanese. Latin letters through French and English, which are commonly used languages in Lebanon and Japanese language through its 3 systems of writing: Kanji, and the two syllable systems, the Hiragana and the Katakana. It is interesting to see weird mixtures of French, English, Arabic and Japanese languages through Latin, Arabic, Kanji, Hiragana and Katakana mixtures; it impresses people through their new approach of mixing types. In fact, this is how the Iranian designers are excelling internationally: impressing audiences with relatively new letters, Arabic ones. In fact, this is what was done with Japanese and Chinese characters in the last century. Chinese and Arabic calligraphies being the richest and oldest calligraphies accentuate this case comparison.

As for the Lebanese, visuals can be even more creative: multilingual by nature, the Lebanese can show their culture visually. It is a great potential that should be explored further.

For the complete series of posters follow the link http://www.posterpage.ch/exhib/ex201leb/ex201leb.htm


Vick Prizma Productions said...

Good Job Tony I already checked the works they are very nice

Keep it up


Anonymous said...

this is very nice and very professional..hakouna matata (bravo)

Unknown said...

Tonton! impressive and creative work.. i liked it a lot..never seen as such before..
keep up the good work..


Unknown said...

You and your students did very good job! I m vry proud of you!I am also looking forward to seeing this exhibition in Japan in the near future!

Anonymous said...

This exhibition is truly the succulent fruit of the hard work and open mind of extraordinary people.

Tony I feel proud having met you at ALBA, something to brag about and feel pride for.

Best of luck in future endeavors, for you as well as for ALBA who chose the right person for the right mission!

Anonymous said...

i really loved them all.
i hope, at the end of the semester, we will have such work and we will be able to exhibt them.

Anonymous said...

very creative antoun... all the best...


Unknown said...

I think that this workshop is a very rewarding experience.

It is important for students to be subjected to different cultures and be open to other societies that are far away from our country. Hopefully this can expand to reach other nations as well.

Very inspiring, highly creative work. Great job!


Anonymous said...

Antoun, i am very impressed by the initiative, the approach and the outcome. They are truly well researched and solid. I hope it was as fulfilling as you thought it would be. I can see from here that the whole process was very exciting.I wish i was a student again! Keep me posted!

Anonymous said...

Dearest brother,
You did such a great and creative job with your students!I am very proud of you.Seeing your work brought tears of joy to my eyes!
Keep up the good work!

Anonymous said...

Great Work, Tony.

It is very refreshing to see this much creativity coming out despite the current sterile conditions in Lebanon.

I hope this brief exposure of Lebanese Arts Students to Japan and to its Culture will incite Politicians and Political Science Professors and Students to study, evaluate, and implement some Japanese standards to politeness and decency to the "NOT-SO-POLITICAL" DIALOGUE that's been going on in Lebanon for so long.

I also hope that this example will open up the eyes of some faculty members to study the Japanese civil education system and try to copy it and implement it in such a way as to become the solid foundation for the creation of a new Lebanon. We desperately need to learn from Japan and from the Japanese.

I hope this Nihonton is an "Eye-Opener".

Congratulations and keep the good work coming.

Good luck.

Anonymous said...

To Antoine, writing from Tokyo. I was stunned by the excellent quality in the posters link you sent- you should send the link to www.khtt.net The posters are amazing, especially since during the 1960's when I came to Japan, anyone making graphics like these would have been considered the most advanced in the Arab world. Seeing these posters with the young people full of youth, intelligence, humor and hope is a positive experience thanks.

Anonymous said...

Dear Antoine,
This is an excellent idea and very creative. We are getting used to surprises with your work. I loved it. Keep it up and make us prouder.

Sami Abi-Aad

Anonymous said...


I am looking forward to the NIHONTEN being held in Japan.



Unknown said...

Loved the work, every single one of the posters is completely different and unique in its own way...The whole process looks like a lot of fun...And the collaboration between Lebanon and Japan is what makes it even more interesting...Exhibitions like this should definitely happen more often...

Anonymous said...

Greetings from America Tony. Thanks for sharing this. Hope everything is going well. Eric

Anonymous said...

Great job Dr. Toni.
Hope to see more work like this in the near future

Anonymous said...

Dear brother, we all are so proud of you and we were not surprised by the result, you were always creative and have sense of responsibility
Love you as always

Anonymous said...

Dear Toni, greetings from Germany and congratulation for this exhibition! You made a good job, when your students made consequential design. I hope to see more! Best regards from Klaus

Anonymous said...

Even in a Japanese workshop the Lebanese thinking takes over.

After a long time from the date of the workshop and I still wonder why it did take place, in fact why did it take much of our time?

We didn't rise to the expressions of the Iranians with the beauty of working in type. Nor where the scripts looked at as scripts but merely as shapes... the height of the expression in the exposition of how we see Japan was :"mashilna yeha" (let it pass by) or “ya amar ma y hezak tombleman” ( moon, let no earth quake move you)…

I wish we could have learned one thing from a Japanese workshop, that the Japanese have nothing to say yet they say it beautifully. But alas ...

After all I guess anything is permitted when you think you are the best in what you do.

Anonymous said...

I find your input useful Louis. Out of all the comments you are the first one to provide a critical view while everyone else was just happy to show their support. And that in my mind is not enough.

On the other hand contructive criticism is usually the most helpful and I didnt see much constructiveness in yours


declaration of interest: I have nothing to do with the workshop but found the creativity stimulating enough.

Anonymous said...

Your questions were answered from the first day, it is up to you to believe in answers or not. It is up to you to see the world black or colored.
To answer one by one, I don’t think the workshop took too much of your time, it took some time from the other’s.
“Nor where the scripts looked at as scripts but merely as shapes”, letters are meaningless shapes for meaningless sounds, does it ring a bell?

No one made fun of your “seppuku”, you don’t have the right to make fun of others, especially that your opinion worth nothing that a personal opinion.
I also wish you have learned something, not from the workshop, but from ALBA, or from life itself. I do wish you to have a positive look to the world otherwise everything would be as macabre as yourself.

Good luck in life Louis

Anonymous said...

When not only a good thing but also the critical opinion is necessary,there is it.
Do its best.

Anyway,Bravo Toni!!

Ioanna ZZ

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Anonymous said...