Journal Safar's 'Nostalgia' issue: A vessel of visual culture

The magazine is written in both English and Arabic, a conscious choice by its two founders, in order to keep the magazine accessible to people across the Middle East.
by Helena Murphy

9 July 2019 | 12:40

Source: by Annahar

  • by Helena Murphy
  • Source: Annahar
  • Last update: 9 July 2019 | 12:40

This photo shows the cover of the latest issue of Safar. (HO)

BEIRUT: With one of its aims being to encourage communication and collaboration between designers in the region, Journal Safar put forth a new issue, "Nostalgia." 

On Saturday, designers, artists, and the curious gathered for the magazine launch party of Journal Safar’s fourth issue at Citerne, Beirut.

Safar is a bilingual graphic design and visual culture magazine created in collaboration with Onassis. The magazine was first established in 2014 and has since continued to grow and evolve, now with more articles than ever before and a new format.

For the launch of their latest issue, Journal Safar hosted a public talks session featuring three different interviews including Huda Smitshuijzen Abifarès (director of the KhattFoundation), Haytham Nawar (an artist and scholar based in Cairo), and Anya Kneez (a Lebanese drag queen) with Paul Holdengräber acting as interviewer.

Maya Moumne, co-founder and co-creative director, told Annahar that the magazine “wanted to give other designers the chance to talk about nostalgia, the pros and cons of it; mostly the cons of it.”

The speakers certainly had contrasting opinions on the notion of nostalgia. Abifarès spoke of her personal dislike of nostalgia and of the need to embrace change instead. This feeling is reflected in her work, according to Moumne.

“In her practice and in her publishing house, she very profusely rejects using any form of nostalgia in design,” said Moumne.

Nawar, however, felt that nostalgia is usually related to “good stuff” and for him “nostalgia is memory.”

Moumne told Annahar that when she and her partner, Hatem Imam, created the magazine, she felt as if graphic design, of all forms of design, is left with the least amount of agency. The purpose of the magazine is to combat this issue and to encourage the development of visual culture in Lebanon and elsewhere.

The magazine is written in both English and Arabic, a conscious choice by its two founders, in order to keep the magazine accessible to people across the Middle East. The visual content of the magazine is also left unrepeated, meaning the Arabic and English version of an article will each be paired with its own imagery and design. The latest issue, for example, had two differing covers, one for Arabic, and one for English.

Following the interview sessions, the Journal hosted a launch party with gratis food and drink. Merchandise, such as t-shirts, tote bags, and stickers was sold, in addition to the new magazine edition.

The tag-line of the issue was: "Flirt with, flee from, and fall for graphic design and visual culture," a fitting description, also, for a flirtatious evening of culture, design, and curiosity.

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