Studio Kawakeb on education through its committed portfolio
The team produced a rotoscope animation that features various sequences of hands engaged in mundane activities, “like a waiter’s hand in a cafe, [or] the hand of a nurse working in a hospital,” says Hussein. The team chose everyday scenarios that would seem “familiar to Lebanese society”, he continues. However, the final sequence of the video is unknown and makes you think. It shows “a General Security officer handing over a domestic worker’s passport to his sponsor”. (kafeel),” says David. By including the passport transaction, which epitomizes the confinement of migrant workers in the Kafala system among familiar everyday scenarios, the film shows how this exploitative practice has become “normalized.” within Lebanese society.
In 2020, the team had the chance to use their strengths in animation to test the limits of graphic design and filmmaking. Liliana Chlela asked Studio Kawakeb to design the identity of her SAFALA album, including the album cover and a music video for one of the tracks. Unable to settle for a single title, the team decided to develop an audiovisual experience for the entire album. Returning to an archive of films they had recorded around Beirut between 2012 and 2020, they together sampled “fragments of illustration, moving images and typography”, says Hussein. Approaching the design in fragments, “seemed like a calming process for an album with very experimental and daring sonic experimentation,” says Hussein.
One of Studio Kawakeb’s first big projects, of which the team is understandably proud, came about when it was asked to design a visual identity for the seventh edition of Beirut Design Week, under the theme “Growing sustainably”. “Over the span of five months, our studio conducted a research process that questioned the sustainability and eco-friendliness of graphic design practices in Lebanon, and how we could both design a creative process sustainability and develop an identity that puts our research results at the center of the visual communication”, explains Christina. After this intense period of research, the team decided to create the visual identity using recycled paper scraps from the previous Beirut Design Week in 2015. In collaboration with one of the country’s only paper recycling initiatives named Papyrus Atelier, the team worked on producing invitations, posters and booklets “that would waste the least amount of ink, consume the least amount of electricity and are recyclable,” Christina continues. The project challenged the team to think critically about their creative process and had a lasting impact. on his way to work today.
Studio Kawakeb’s admirable dedication to sustainability is complemented by a keen interest in sharing knowledge through design. In 2015, the team designed a series of workshops for Rachel Dedman’s At the Seams exhibition in Dar El Nimer. Dedman curated a diverse collection of Palestinian material culture to reflect the “political potential of crafts and clothing”. In response to this theme, Studio Kawakeb coordinated its project Through the wall. Aiming to engage young minds in Palestine’s vibrant embroidery heritage, the team introduced a perforated wall to the exhibition space and invited attendees to use it as an ’embroidery board’. Christina continues, “Participants collectively sewed the mural and transformed authentic patterns into stop motion animations.” What emerges from through the wall is its strength both as an educational tool and as a symbolic project. David explains that “the wooden wall in the workshop was a metaphor for apartheid.” Thus, the needles and threads threading through it symbolize the power of collective resistance.