A new cultural awakening has swept over the Arab World since 2011. The Typographic Matchmaking design research projects, initiated by the Khatt Foundation since 2005, and curated by Huda Smitshuijzen AbiFarès, have brought awareness to the role of design (and type design in particular) in bridging geographical, cultural and political divides. The projects strive to find common grounds in the writing and design traditions across diverse cultures by laying bare their shared cultural histories and their differences. The Khatt Foundation makes this knowledge available through collaborating with various designers and institutions in Europe and the MENA (Middle East and North Africa) regions, staging exhibitions, film screenings and debates, and engaging with local and young creative communities. The talk will present a series of the Foundation’s design research projects and will highlight the potentials of design collaboration as a tool for cultural diplomacy.
The Khatt Foundation is the only existing non-profit cultural foundation and online platform for design from the Middle East and North Africa (MENA). Founded in 2004 in Amsterdam, it is dedicated to design research and development through projects and programs that focus on rejuvenating from within the culture the applied arts traditions of the MENA region. It aims to build cross-cultural creative networks, provide a platform for dialogue and design research, initiate cross-cultural and interdisciplinary collaboration, publish critical writing and establish a knowledge centre on contemporary design from the MENA region. The Khatt Foundation strives to develop typographic design within the broader context of applied arts and visual culture, using design as a tool for cultural diplomacy. It organizes conferences, workshops and exhibitions on multilingual design. Khatt Books is its publishing arm specializing in critical publications on design and typography from the MENA region.