Following the atrocities of the Beirut Civil War, Kameel Hawa moved to Jeddah with an earnest longing for new creative fields to invest in. With a growing passion for art, design, Arabic letterforms, typography and calligraphy, he founded Al Mohtaraf from ground level with the vision of an artistic atelier rather than a mere company, one where designing with thoughtful, artistic passion is a core value. Together with a team of designers, illustrators and calligraphers that share his passion and vision, Hawa succeeded—and still does— in initiating a distinct approach to design and design thinking, where boundaries between art and design can hardly be discerned.
Today the result is an award-winning pan-Arab design house unique in its ability to marry contemporary design skills and rich artistic and cultural orientation, with a thorough knowledge and understanding of the area’s national heritage, tradition and aspirations. Advertising and media agencies credit Al Mohtaraf for being a pioneer in reviving the use of Arabic calligraphy and typography in the domain of business communication and advertising for the last three decades.
Immersed in arts and design, Kameel’s paintings have been exhibited in Beirut, Jeddah, Cairo and Kuwait. His sketches, watercolours, oils, WordArt and articles have been published in numerous books, two of which are design award winners.
Attracted by the beauty of form, Kameel Hawa has become a renowned contributor to the Arabic ‘WordArt’ movement: art pieces that stand today as modern witnesses to the Arabic written word, ranging from illustrations and paintings to jewellery and trophies. The first experiments appeared amidst Al Mohtaraf branding projects, where many logos evolved into typographic sculptures, statuettes or collage artworks.
Slowly but surely, it grew into a passion for typographic sculptures, sculptures that ‘speak’. The result: three-dimensional letterforms implanted in the city skyline as an invitation for onlookers to decipher, ponder and interact. The first breakthrough is the sculptural interpretation of the city name ‘Beirut’ in Arabic, presented during the Beirut Art Week in 2012, that stands today as a national landmark in Downtown Beirut.
In 2014, his public installation of eight sculptural interpretations of the word ‘Fann’ (Arabic for Art) over the Samir Kassir pool in Downtown Beirut received widespread acclaim. In 2017, he unveiled the typographic sculpture of the acronym of his alma mater ‘AUB’, erected on the university campus. In the same year, he presented his latest design project during the Beirut Art Week—one dear to his heart: a typographic sculptural homage to the Phoenician Alphabet, with a series of sculptural forms inspired by the inherited letters of the alphabet recognized as the mother of all alphabets in the west and east.
Born in 1947, Kameel Hawa is a Lebanese artist, painter, graphic designer and writer. A graduate of the American University of Beirut and with no formal art education, Hawa began to paint intuitively in the 1970s. He was mostly inspired by daily life objects and domestic scenes, with seated women, friends and acquaintances, flowers in vases and birds on wires being his favourite subjects.
In the preceding years the focus of his daily work drove him away from painting as a central activity, though it remains, in his own words, ‘the paramount means of his artistic expression.’ His art, design and writing have many common traits, the most evident of which is the ease of expression without compromising profoundness of feeling and overwhelming passion.
A natural outcome of Hawa’s passion for letterforms is the creation of typographic art pieces— ranging from illustrations and paintings to jewellery and sculptures. His typographic sculptural interpretation of the city name ‘Beirut’ in Arabic, presented during the Beirut Art Week , stands today as a national landmark in Downtown Beirut.
In 2014, his public installation of eight sculptural interpretations of the word ‘Fann’ (Arabic for Art) over the Samir Kassir pool in Downtown Beirut received widespread acclaim. In 2017, he unveiled the typographic sculpture of the acronym of his alma mater ‘AUB’, erected on the university campus. In the same year, he presented his latest design project during the Beirut Art Week—one dear to his heart: a typographic sculptural homage to the complete Phoenician Alphabet, known to be the father of what we know today as the written word.