UAE award celebrating Islamic art and culture launches new Arabic typography competition

Contestants must incorporate a feeling of rhythm or movement in their designs or videos

A UAE award celebrating Islamic art and culture has launched a new category for Arabic typography.

The 16th Al Burda Award is inviting young people to submit their typography designs under the theme of rhythm.

They will vie for cash prizes worth Dh170,000. The winner will get Dh70,000 and 10 finalists will get Dh10,000 each.

“Typography is the arrangement of letterforms and text into a composition to visually communicate an idea of a message using digital font or digital lettering”, said Salem Al Qassimi, a member of the jury and founder of Fikra, a design-led educational platform.

Participants must incorporate a feeling of rhythm or movement in their designs or videos.

It could be in the shape of letters, the way the text is displayed on screen, or the music that plays in the background and the rhyming of verses.

Contenstants can display their typography through a static design such as a poster, or moving art like videos or animation.

But the text must be derived from the verses of Qasidat Al Burda – a 13th century poem that was written in praise of Prophet Mohammed.

Salem Al Qassimi, a juror for the Al Burda Award's new Arabic typography competition, says the participants must incorporate a feeling of rhythm or movement in their designs or videos. Satish Kumar / The National
Salem Al Qassimi, a juror for the Al Burda Award's new Arabic typography competition, says the participants must incorporate a feeling of rhythm or movement in their designs or videos. Satish Kumar / The National

“We are interested in how participants utilise Qasidat Al Burda by expressing the notion of rhythm and somehow also challenging it," Mr Al Qassimi said.

“Different people will inevitably interpret rhythm differently, and it is exciting to see how these interpretations play across different media.

"Participants have complete freedom in exploring what rhythm means to them vis-a-vis the verses they choose to visually interpret.”

Contestants must justify their design choices and explain how they represent the poem’s verses.

Typography has become a prevalent form of art in many mediums, including magazines, opening titles of TV shows and across social media.

"It is really everywhere,” Mr Al Qassimi said.

“Imagine having the freedom to artistically manipulate this text in order to enhance its meaning, or provide an alternative expression or interpretation."

“Sometimes typography is direct and enhances the written copy by allowing it to become more expressive. Sometimes Arabic letterforms are used as abstract forms to expressively communicate an idea or a feeling.

“There’s really no limit to this.”

The contestants can also create a new Arabic font, said Shatha Al Mulla, director of arts in the UAE Ministry of Culture and Youth.

“They could use the traditional Arabic text and shape it in a way that creates a new font.”

She said typography has its masters in Middle Eastern countries such as Egypt, Iran and Iraq.

“But we also know that there are young established artists in countries like Indonesia and Pakistan – and in Eurasia. We look forward to seeing submissions from them," she said.

Artists and designers around the world, and especially in this part of the world, are utilising typography in creative ways, Mr Al Qassimi said.

"Because of the nature of the Arabic script being extremely flexible and playful, there’s so much room to experiment and play," he said.

"We hope that this award encourages participants to really take risks in the way that they utilise and play with Arabic."

The award this year also increased the number of winners for certain categories, “to give a chance to more rising talent to participate and win”, Ms Al Mulla said.

Registrations are open until June 17, while artist submissions will take place from June 17 until October 1.

Ms Al Mulla said the period of registration and submission can be extended if needed.

The jury will meet in November to evaluate the entries.

The names of the winners will be announced in December at Al Burda Festival, which was launched in 2018 to complement the award.

Updated: June 8, 2021 02:10 PM

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