Amman, a capital city of roughly 4 million recorded inhabitants, is located in the Kingdom of Jordan, a landlocked country in the Levantine region. While the country boasts a spectacular collection of natural and built wonders, like Petra, the Dead Sea, and Wadi Rum, the central government’s focus has historically always been on Amman. Having said that, this city lacks the charm and beauty of the country it’s located in. The city’s landscape resembles a sea of white stone buildings on hills.
Amman can be characterized by its strong contrast between its eastern part of highly populated neighborhoods where unemployment rates are high, and neighborhoods primarily located in the west, where the active population is greater, the level of education better, and buildings and infrastructure are more developed. (Ababsa, 2011) East Amman typically attracts many rural immigrants and refugees. In fact, it’s home to Jordan’s oldest refugee camp, one of the four camps established in the country to accommodate the refugees who left Palestine as a result of the 1948 Arab-Israeli war.
In contrast to the migration into Amman, brain drain is another phenomenon worth noting. According to the Arab Democracy Survey of 2018/2019 conducted by the Center for Strategic Studies at the University of Jordan, 45% of Jordanian think about emigration outside the country. This desire is considered to be the second-highest in the Arab world after Sudan. (Montanari, 2019)
The livestock of bedouins, which were once raised to graze on fertile green hills, has now been pushed out to the city’s boundaries. The department of statistics in Jordan released a report in 2017 on the number of goats and sheep in urban settings. Statistics showed a total of 3.8 million sheep in 2017, an 8% drop from the same period in 2016. In 2018, the population dropped another 21% to 773,000. (en.royanews.tv, 2018)
“With the confiscation of tribal lands by the state, the encroachment of agriculture and protected areas into grazing areas, the widespread use of motored vehicles by pastoralists, and the severe degradation of rangeland, this traditional mobility of herds has been eroded quite dramatically.” (PASTRES, 2020)
Today, it’s not uncommon to see sheep being herded on hot pavement, through the city, in a desperate search for greener pastures.
The movement in and out of Amman is somber and heavy in its emotion. Time not only changes the city’s structure but its residents as well. Wherever you look, someone is on the move to find a more prosperous place to live.
Time has moved on
When the residents of Amman have settled on a place they can call home, perhaps they would like to send a letter to their loved ones in far-away places, the homes of their past. I’ve decided to design a stamp as an homage to the movement in Amman, which can accompany those letters.
This video of sheep moving through West Amman’s most crowded intersections, 5th Circle, was my main inspiration for a stamp set.
Jordan’s first stamps were produced when the country was under the Ottoman rule and known as the Emirate of Transjordan. After the country gained its independence in 1949 and renamed “The Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan,” its stamps reflected the new name. By 2019, Jordan has issued 2,667 stamps.
I wanted to create a set of two stamps. One would feature the aforementioned video of sheep in urban Amman. At the same time, the second would take on a more traditional aesthetic: an illustration of a sheep.
To illustrate this with the font’s text, two opposing display typefaces were chosen: Watad (on the left) and Farsi (on the right). Watad is a typeface featuring contemporary sharp Naskh letterforms with clean gaps giving it a vintage calligraphy look and futuristic stencil feel. On the other hand, Farsi is based on Ruqʿah script, a variety of Arabic scripts primarily used in official documents and everyday writing. As a “body” text, I chose Changa, a bilingual Arabic/English typeface that evokes a vintage yet contemporary feel.
The color palette was kept simple: the colors were derived from the oldest vintage stamps but were also chosen to symbolize the white stone buildings against the mossy green hills of Amman.
I chose to offset this visual piece with music by an artist I hold dear to my heart. Jerusalem in My Heart is an audio-visual project by Radwan Ghazi Moumneh and signed to Constellation Records. The song Yudaghdegh El-Ra3ey Walal-Ghanam features a haunting vocal track against a droning background, enveloping the listener with sound and emotion.
The result was this double set of stamps, meant to be watched, listened to, and stamped on a letter to a loved one:
Thoughts and Conclusions
This week was a wild ride of emotions. In my head, the subject matter wasn’t anything new. The topic of migration is quite often discussed, and there are many opposing opinions on the matter. However, seeing the video of the shepherd and his sheep travel through the busiest intersection of the city is what opened the floodgate of emotions and thoughts on the topic, so it was only fitting to include that video in the final piece, or even center the design around it. Looking back at the final design, I worry if the imagery of sheep used as symbolism for the migration of people might have negative connotations, one which I never intended. Also, using Premiere Pro to do anything is simply a nuisance. Cropping the video down to fit the frame inside the stamp was not an intuitive process at all.
Ababsa, M. (2011). Social Disparities and Public Policies in Amman. [online] Semantic Scholar. Available at: https://www.semanticscholar.org/paper/Social-Disparities-and-Public-Policies-in-Amman-Ababsa/4b400b245abb1856f9398ab389e294e32e97dabf [Accessed 25 Mar. 2021].
en.royanews.tv. (2018). Reduction in number of sheep and goats in Jordan. [online] Available at: https://en.royanews.tv/news/14313/Reduction-in-number-of-sheep-and-goats-in-Jordan [Accessed 25 Mar. 2021].
Montanari, J. (2019). Survey sounds clarion call to plug brain drain. [online] Jordan Times. Available at: http://www.jordantimes.com/news/local/survey-sounds-clarion-call-plug-brain-drain [Accessed 25 Mar. 2021].
PASTRES (2020). Herding in a confined spring: Pastoralists in Jordan during the COVID-19 pandemic. [online] Pastoralism, Uncertainty and Resilience – PASTRES. Available at: https://pastres.org/2020/05/15/herding-in-confined-spring-pastoralists-in-jordan-during-the-covid-19-pandemic/ [Accessed 25 Mar. 2021].