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Young designers offer local shops free facelift

Hussein Alazaat, Ali Almasri brighten up shopfronts in underprivileged areas

By Camille Dupire - Sep 13,2017 - Last updated at Sep 13,2017

Hussein Alazaat and Ali Almasri, two professional designers, are offering completely free of charge design services to shop owners in less affluent areas of Amman neighbourhoods (Photo courtesy of Wajha)

AMMAN — Brightening the daily lives of locals while beautifying Amman’s facades was the purpose behind the creation of “Wajha”, an independent social initiative that uses design and branding to help the community.

Hussein Alazaat and Ali Almasri, two professional designers, are offering completely free of charge design services to shop owners in less affluent areas of Amman neighbourhoods.

The pair founded the initiative in 2012, with the aim of making the walls of the city brighter by applying colourful and innovative design contrasting with the monotonous alleyways of the capital, all the while revitalising small local businesses. 

Taking its name from the Arabic word for “facade”, Wajha’s aesthetic work takes place on small shopfronts, helping proprietors who do not have the budget for a facade makeover.

“In many communities, design is an unaffordable privilege, and people do not see the need for it,” Almasri told The Jordan Times, noting that they focus their projects on underprivileged areas in and outside the capital, rather than affluent and trendy neighbourhoods like Abdoun or Jabal Luweibdeh.

“One of our goals is to expose people to the design culture as a positive influence for their communities,” the young designer added, noting that the pair applies their creative interventions “where they are most needed”. 

All projects take place in public, attracting the public to watch, comment and learn. “We want to stimulate the local community to talk more about ‘design’, and to interact with them about the positive influence of design.” 

A week ahead of the annual Amman Design Week, the pair stresses the importance of design in the daily lives of citizens: “Our project is important because, in our culture, ‘design’ as a concept is not a priority.”

By creating innovative artwork on view for everyone, Wajha uses the city’s facades as an empty canvas for experiments in typography, illustration, and graphic design, the pair said in a statement. 

Each project carries a specific relevance to the city and is personalised to the proprietor. Alazaat and Almasri meet up with the shop owner and, after a long chat, they start the creative process that takes between two to five months.

It all began with Khaled, a tailor in Jabal Al Nuzha neighbourhood, for whom the project was a rare and privileged opportunity. 

“We wanted to give this man appreciation and acknowledgment for his years of dedication to the craft and especially his effort to communicate with his clients, despite the fact that he’s deaf and mute,” the pair said in a statement sent to The Jordan Times.

 The modern design that now covers the tailor’s shopfront depicts a retro caricature of Khaled, complete with a scissors and a dapper line-drawn that reminds the passerby of the man himself. 

“The community’s response to the project has been fantastic,” the pair of designers noted. 

Since its inception, Wajhat has participated in Amman Design Week 2016, Sikka Art Fair in Dubai and the Saudi National Creative Initiative. 

The two designers have also brightened the walls of downtown Cairo, Kuwait city, and the old neighbourhood of Dubai city, among others.

 

And the creative philanthropy keeps growing, with their latest regional project “The Competition” that seeks to help other designers bring colours to their own country.

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