Nostalgia bridges past and future at Beirut Design Week 2019

An interesting lineup of local and international creatives will uncover the theme of nostalgia through a series of workshops, exhibitions, and talks.
by Maysaa Ajjan and Mohamad Shour

4 July 2019 | 13:07

Source: by Annahar

This photo shows Sibylle Abillama's creations at the exhibition. (Annahar Photo)

BEIRUT: Nostalgia has always been integral in post-war Lebanese culture; looking back sentimentally at what existed before this upheaval.

With the recent revival of specific trends in architecture, crafts, fashion, advertising, and other sectors, many artists have come forward to “reclaim” this lost culture, a movement that is perfectly captured by the Beirut Design Week, 2019.

This year, artists, tech innovators, designers, and thinkers collectively explore the concept of nostalgia through the lens of present and future designs in a signature event which takes place from July 1 to July 7. An interesting lineup of local and international creatives will uncover the theme through a series of workshops, exhibitions, and talks.

“We came up with the theme of nostalgia because it’s a very relevant theme to us today, especially with all the technological advancements around us,” Rola Ghotmeh, founder of The Creative 9 agency, and this year’s managing director for Beirut Design Week, told Annahar.

She added: “We see that people today have a lot of questions on whether to move on to the future and forget the past, or to draw inspiration from the past and move to a better future."

The event’s first talk was about pursuing creativity through time and space by Danish designer Johannes Torpe, who, since the age of five, has been influenced by the sci-fi culture through his mother.

“Everything comes from nostalgia, even when you’re talking about futurism,” Torpe told Annahar, adding: “You have to have the memory storage to draw upon in order to create something new.” 

After that came a panel led by NAHNOO organization, a youth-led NGO that works on good governance, preserving public spaces, and preserving cultural heritage. Their talk, titled “Crafting Future Heritage,” revolved around the history and modernization of crafts and their link to the Armenian culture in Beirut,  specifically Bourj Hammoud.

The participants, which included household names like Joanne Bajjaly from Biladiorganization and Arpi Magassarian from Badgeur center, also spoke of empowering rural women through teaching them how to do “mouneh” (traditional storage of homemade goods) and market themselves.

On Wednesday morning, type designer Pascal Zoghby, who is also a calligrapher, gave a talk on how Arabic typography continues to define itself in the age of technology and design.

“We aspire to give designers a wide variety of styles to allow them to have different voices, as with various approaches, the Arabic letter becomes geometric in its structure,” Zoghby said during his talk.

Zoghby had the chance to delve deeper into the geometric structures of the Arabic letter, with a workshop that followed his talk. Participants were given the chance for a hands-on experience, where they were asked to create their own “kufic” lettering based on their choice of dialect. They then created posters using their own "kufic" designs.

Taking place in parallel with the curated talks and workshops, were the exhibitions and installations of some Beirut’s most prominent artists. From Hamra to Mar Mikhael to Bourj Hammoud, these installations merged the concepts of old and new to create a modern take on art with a nostalgic effect.

“My work is all about nostalgia; it’s about looking back in order to look forward,” conceptual designer Nada Debs, who was displaying part of her marquetry mania collection at Starco, told Annahar. “People see my products and they always think it reminds them of their parents or grandparents. It’s a modern memory; this is how we define ourselves,” she continued.

Plasticine artist and designer, Sibylle Abillama, was also one of the participating artists to display her work at her boutique in Gemmayze.

“The first thing that popped in my head was old objects like cassettes, old phones, coasters, shishas and handbags,” said Abillama. “I remembered the golden days of Beirut and I always think to myself ‘where are you, Beirut?’” she added.

The event carries on into the weekend, where many more exhibitions, talks, and workshops await the attendees.

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