Language of the streets
Despite the digitization of design, the tradition of hand-painted banners, known as show no signs of disappearing. Kubik Design Studio director and adjunct graphic design lecturer at LAU, Maria Bahous explores the public messages that mark Lebanon’s streets
In Lebanon, we have come to appreciate those familiar public banners dangling between electrical wires across the city and marking our streets. These handpainted calligraphic messages painted on large white cloth banners are known as a yafta in the Arabic language ( yaftat, plural), which translates to “banner” in English. Yaftat are characterized by their simplicity and direct communication, as much as for their traditional value dating back to the early decades of the 20th Century. They are indeed one of the oldest practices in the Arab world to spread public opinion, expression and announcements, long before printed posters were mass-produced. Today they are considered as a cheap but very efficient way to put out a message to the public.
The yafta has become a major component of Lebanon’s visual street language, whether fixed within a street or carried by hand during demonstrations. They reveal deeper meanings alluding to style, belief systems, geographic region and cultural direction, with their own stylistic and type treatments.
Use of yaftat
Yaftat are not used for one specific purpose. They serve a vast variety of messages but are all a reflection of communities, their lifestyles, thinking processes and relationships with each otherher througthrough the simple use of text. Lately people are resorting to using yaftat to express or advertise messages with personal interest. Despite their ephemeral nature theses messages are part of the Lebanese scenery. Though the content varies from one city to the other, since they are circumstantial, they exist all over the country.
While posters are commissioned out to graphic designers, illustrators or visual artists leaving room for self-expression through visuals and words, public banners are more ofo a simplep direct message of paint or ink on a canvas that somehow