The big media news this week in Jordan is that Al Sabeel (English: The Path), Jordan’s Islamist newspaper has gone into daily publication. I have not had a chance to pick up a copy yet. My mental image of their previous weekly effort (mainly formed from glimpsing the paper on newsstands) is that it was heavy on ideology and super-large headlines on the cover, celebrating the victories of this or that Isalmist resistance movement or party or complaining loudly about local corruption or moral impurity.
I managed to skim through today’s issue as PDF online and formed some initial impressions. But before getting a real look at the product itself, I was faced with Al Sabeel’s advertising campaign that can be seen in various places in Amman.
It looks “weird” but is also “interesting” when analyzed!
It’s a rather surreal photo collage: A bearded young man stands on a dirt road leading towards a strangely yellow sun on a pale blue sky. He’s reading a copy of his favorite newspaper. The rural road is flanked with heaps and heaps of greenery. Not trees, but more like overgrown grass and bushes.
The tagline: “Your Path to The Truth”. Fair enough, I guess. Al Ghad uses “Truth Above All”.
Then there is the over-ornamented product descriptor: “A Daily Newspaper” written in a font that mimics traditional Arabic calligraphy.
On the technical level, it looks like a flashback to the 70’s or 80’s that met Photoshop in the 1990’s.
If I want to analyze this poster, I think it exposes some kind of Islamist “virtual reality”.
In this virtual reality, you have bearded young men, in conservative (yet western) dress, in the forefront. Women, though “important” and “respected” are not to be seen, if not absolutely necessary. A quick look at today’s issue proves this. In the ENTIRE issue of 28 pages, only ONE face of a female is to be seen! Needless to say there are dozens of men’s faces, including several Israeli politicians and even a bare-chested Juventus football player
Then, what can we say about the choice of a rural dirt road as the symbolic “path” that leads to the “sun of truth”?
I think that this reflects a yearning to the perceived “simplicity” and “purity” of the village. It’s a wished-for world of traditional values and moral clarity. On a certain level this reveals an uneasiness with contemporary city life with all its contradictions, mixing of the sexes and diverse lifestyles. This reality is hard for many Islamists to swallow. The idealized, virtual village, with abundant “greenery” and “goodness” (not the real village, mind you) is a convenient escape.
The path leading to the sun as a design motif can be seen in many examples of visual communication: socialist propaganda, Christian and Buddhist religious promises of enlightenment and truth and commercially-driven promises of a better tomorrow..
What Al Sabeel has done with the calligraphic element of its poster is also revealing. The art of calligraphy, which is a cornerstone of Islamic art, is one of the favorite art forms of Islamist-inclined people. The over-ornamented, traditional looking calligraphy on Al Sabeel’s poster is, as mentioned above, merely a computer font. So, although this calligraphy element on the poster is supposed to reflect a celebration of Arabic-Islamic tradition and grandeur, further examination reveals it as a cosmetic and “mass produced” reproduction of the past, with no effort of real craftsmanship.
I would dare to say that dealing with tradition and history in this “non-ncritical” and “un-crafted” manner is one of the major problems of Islamist culture (and the wider Arab culture) as a whole.
Finally, the overall lack of design quality of the poster is another indication of kind the culture this paper is coming from. Compare this effort to the promotional posters of Al-Ghad for example, which use clever slogan and professional photography to get the message across. And don’t tell me Al Sabeel doesn’t have money or human resources to do a decently designed and produced ad.
Ironically, this low quality, cliche-laden visual style might actually appeal to a large segment of society, which finds comforts in cliches and simplistic messages.
Read these related posts on 360east:
- Faces For Lebanon: Kickstarting a global campaign of human solidarity
- “Jordanians always smile” and other “impossibilities”!
- The controversial billboards that vanished!
- Isn’t it time for new types of political forces in Jordan to emerge?
- A ’special’ mobile plan for parliament election candidates only!
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