MoMA Arabic Pamphlet
As a foreigner living in the United States of America, I am sensitive to foreign languages existing in a country of immigrants that is benefitting from its cultural inclusiveness.
I see Middle Eastern people every day in New York City, yet I feel they are absent in some way. I hardly ever see Arabic script in pamphlets from tourist service kiosks, nor is it present on many menus or billboards. Since ISIS became a considerable force in global politics, as well as in the conflicts between refugees and natives, many are confessing “Islamophobia.” Arabic script on ISIS’s flag, screenshots from Middle Eastern war news; this is leading people to be afraid of Arabic script. I don’t want Arabic to become a synonym for terrorism.
I first had this Arabic pamphlet idea in October 2016. In the beginning I found an English PDF file from the Museum of Modern Art’s website (https://www.moma.org/ momaorg/shared/pdfs/docs/visit/MoMA_English.pdf). I sent the script format to a English-Arabic translator on Taobao, paying her for $27 (185RMB). I consulted a graphic designer about the fonts and paper weight of the original English version, and rented Neue Helvetica Arabic on Skyfonts, paying $7.99 for one month’s use. I then copied the original layout but reversed the reading direction to function as Arabic script. The new Arabic pamphlets of 100 copies were secretly put into MoMA’s circulation on December 9, 2016.
Two months later, MoMA made an effort to showcase work by artists from countries on Trump’s banned immigration list. MoMA “affirmed the ideals of welcome and freedom are as vital to this museum, as they are to the United States” (https:// www.nytimes.com/2017/02/03/arts/design/moma-protests-trump-entry-ban-with- work-by-artists-from-muslim-nations.html). However, this act by the institution is a temporary protest. These artworks are the tools for MoMA’s voice. One day, Ibrahim El-Salahi’s mosque will be taken down. It will disappear from audiences’ views again. Is there any long-term plan for MoMA’s stance?
I don’t know exactly how many Arabic speakers visit MoMA every day, as I don’t know how MoMA decided to make pamphlets for current nine languages it offers. I put an Arabic pamphlet in, at least to let people know that a different culture is here, peacefully.