Gastautor: Ahmed Mansour

Vom 28. bis 29. Oktober fand in Kairo unter der Schirmherrschaft der American University Cairo (AUC) und organisiert von Kochan & Partner und des Bibliotheca Alexandrina Calligraphy Centre die internationale Granshan Konferenz 2016 statt. Vorgeschaltet waren zwei Tage mit Workshops.
Als Gastautor fasst Dr. Ahmed Mansour die Ergebnisse der Konferenz für uns zusammen. Er ist Stellvertretender Direktor des Bibliotheca Alexandrina Calligraphy Centre. Seine Forschungsschwerpunkte sind die arabische Schrift- und Druckgeschichte. Zusammen mit Dr. Khaled Azab publizierte er das Buch „The Bulaq Press“ über Ägyptens erste staatseigene Druckerei und ihren Einfluss auf die gesellschaftliche Entwicklung. 

Ausstellung in der Bibliotheca Alexandrina: Handschrift aus dem 13. Jahrhundert mit einer Lobpreisung des Propheten Mohamed.

Typographers, designers, calligraphers, historians of writing and scripts met for two days of intensives discussions and debates. Indeed, it is the first time that Granshan Conference is held in Egypt. It was a good effort and excellent idea from Haytham Nawar and Bahia Shehab to take the initiative to bring it to Cairo. In addition, it is an opportunity to put the local partners together with their counterparts from different countries and perspectives face-to-face.

Granshan runs annually as a competition for Type Design for non-Latin typefaces. Every year, the organizing committee chooses a city to organize the competition. Besides, a scholarly conference is organized to storm brain about the new visions, ideas, projects, updates on  switching between design and original types. The conference is focused on the technical challenges by the integration of Non-Latin typefaces – and on writing systems like Cyrillic, Greek, Arabic, Indian and of course Armenian.

This year Granshan conference stressed on the exchange and learning about designing for atmospheres that respect complex social and personal cultural histories, and responds to a world that grows at the same time more interconnected and intimate. Granshan Cairo was successful to navigate communities in order to develop design culture and enterprise in a balance between local, regional, and global. It also discussed how design can change communities, give focus to enterprise, and underpin regional identities.
The sessions of the conference were devoted, each, to a certain topic that explores a particular area of research. The inaugural session was devoted to discover and trace the journey of the development of the Arabic script either historically, paleographically or visually. Prof. Kamal Mansour, with his 20 years at Monotype, and involvement in the many challenges of typography and font development for many languages, took us in a long journey with the Arabic typeface. Prof. Mansour gave a workshop on encoding the Arabic language in the Unicode Standard. He explained how OpenType is used as an international standard that provides all the necessary building blocks for the visual presentation of various styles of Arabic script.

Then an impressive contribution was devoted to listen more about the new trends to learn Arabic script and calligraphy in different countries such as Lebanon and Morocco.

The revival of Arabic script on different mediums was an important case to be raised in this gathering. For example: shop signs, airport signs, road signs, … reflected the importance of Arabic typography. The bilingual (Arabic-English) typographic applications in terms of typeface selection, treatment, hierarchy, layout, and reading direction, within the context of print, should be examined. The combination of both scripts in a single publication, and highlights the designer’s active role in setting the relationship between these two scripts that represent two different languages (and cultures). This was clear in the lecture of Converse Between Two Worlds which displayed is a short film about crossing typographical boundaries, as it shows how innovation can emerge out of these challenging intersections.
In the same frame, Bahia Shehab showed us the real history of opposition in the Arabic society through tracing back the history of ‘Lam-Alif” which means “No”. This word was written in different forms and designs to express disagreement to the general policy of the state. Shehab collected different examples from various historical periods. 
Progressively, the conference began to show up its identity. Speakers were more concentrated to display their attempts to develop and sail across the different communities and environments. Yara Khoury discussed extensively the attempts of Nasri  Khattar to unify Arabic type as a reform concept in the 1940’s. Yara also organized a workshop on 3d Arabic Type. The participants learnt about the main parameters that define the Arabic script and letterforms and play around with them to see the different results that can be generated from 2d to 3d.
Meanwhile, Ali el-Masry narrated the story of his typeface with its own story, a name, an inspiration, an aspiration, and a series of trials and errors that it went through.
Starting from the second half of the second day of the conference, imperative debates came to light. Edik Ghabuzyan presented a historic overview about the Armenian script and printing. The passion for the Armenian script is intrinsic to the Armenian culture.

In an innovative interaction, Haytham Nawar interviewed Thomas Milo on Qur’an and bible publications in order to witness a comprehensive elaboration on the comparison between calligraphy and typography. Milo was very rich in his presentation about the history of Qur’an printing in the modern age.
The limited-spread typefaces came to light, for example Coptic and Tifinagh. It’s an ancient north African writing systems and script. Its alphabet is officially recognized by IRCAM Morocco and the adoption by Libyan education minister. Madgis Madi displayed its artistic use as well as everyday use in worldwide logos and trademarks. On the other hand, Romany Hafez, explored the origins of Coptic script and its use nowadays in the Egyptian society. However, he regrets the absence of Coptic typeface that attracts designers. Hafez, suggested to include the Coptic script in Granshan Competition.
Finally, Ahmed Mansour, deputy director of the bibliotheca Alexandrina Calligraphy Centre presented an important project on The ‘Journey of Writing in Egypt’. It is a long-term academic project that aims at exploring, documenting and then preserving the writings in Egypt since the Protodynastic period till the modern age. In addition, Mansour shed the light on the importance of ancient writings in documenting the life of foreign communities who lived in Egypt. He added an important notice that theses scripts  could inspire typographers to design new typefaces from the different alphabets that were found in Egypt along its history.

Führung durch die Bibliotheca Alexandrina

Worth to mention, that the participants paid a visit to the bibliotheca  Alexandrina in order to visit the Bulaq Press Museum that was established since about 10 years to relate the history of the first governmental printing house in Egypt.

To conclude, Granshan Cairo is actually an enthusiastic assembly of calligraphers, type designers, specialists in the history of writing, developers and programmers to meet, discuss and debate on the best solution to reform the scripts in the typography. This assembly could gather the local partners from Egypt AUC and Bibliotheca Alexandrina Calligraph
y Centre, together with international partners: Armenian Ministry of Culture, Kochan & Partner and Monotype, … etc.

Fotos: © Ahmed Mansour