Book Huda Smitshuijzen AbiFarès, Nagla Samir

Mouneer Al-Shaarani

Against the Grain: Exploring the Scope of the Arabic Letter

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Mouneer Al-Shaarani is a prolific and highly acclaimed Syrian calligrapher and designer. He was born on September 6, 1952, in Salamiya, Syria. He began his calligraphic apprenticeship at a young age, with Syrian master calligrapher Muhammad Badawi Al-Dirani (1894–1967). After 1967, and in parallel with his studies, he practiced calligraphy as sign-painter and created lettering for billboard advertising and other design commissions. He was part of the first graduating class from the Graphic Design program at the Faculty of Fine Arts (Kulliyat al-Funūn) in Damascus University, studying under eminent design pioneer Abdelkader Arnaout (1936–1992), graduating in 1977. In 1979, he moved to Beirut where he lived for three years, working for several leftist publishers like Ibn Rush and Dār al-Kalima. He quickly gained some fame and received numerous design commissions. From a freelance commission for a series of book covers, he became the art director of the Al-Mu’assassa Al-Arabiyya lil-Dirāsāt (Arab Institute for Research and Publishing), as successor to Hilmi Al-Tuni. In his three-year tenure in Beirut, Al-Shaarani developed a unique visual language for his book cover designs, that he carried on exploring and refining throughout his design career. He published several critical articles on Arabic calligraphy, typography, and Islamic art. His work is characterized by his marrying image and lettering into a compact yet powerful message.

This book intends to shed light on Al-Shaarani’s prolific graphic design practice and his unique visual language, tracing the tumultuous life of Al-Shaarani: his serial migrations and their effect on his work. This book strives to present to the reader a clear vision of Mouneer Al-Shaarani’s willingness to go against the grain in exploring the scope of the Arabic letter and its potential for continuing renewal, evolution, and cultural progress.


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Series: Arabic Design Library 9
Authors: Huda Smitshuijzen AbiFarès & Nagla Samir
Publisher: Khatt Books, Amsterdam, 2023
ISBN: 978-94-90939-29-8
Edition: 176 p, ills colour, 17 x 24 cm, Hardback, English & Arabic
Price: 32,50