Lan­guage of the streets

Lebanon Traveler - - CUSTOMS & TRADITIONS -

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




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