Jordan’s capital Amman has all the assets of a great city; delicious food, historic architecture and incredible nature on it’s doorstep; but now a new creativity community is adding art and design to it’s hip accolades. We tracked down Hayan Maani, one of Jordan’s hottest artistic talents whose calligraphy-inspired designs have been bought by Jordanian royalty and regularly appear in ink on Instagram as popular tattoos for Jordan’s cool creatives. Here’s the low-down on Amman’s urban art groove.
Hello Hayan, can you tell us a little bit about yourself and your work?
I’m an artist with an interest in Arabic calligraphy. I create my own calligraphy designs then transform them into paintings, sculpture, furniture, jewellery and even tattoos. I like to work with wood, gold, bronze, concrete, iron and gold leaf – each material has its own qualities but I find all are beautiful to work with. Love and peace are words that I use a lot in my calligraphy designs, particularly in my last sculpture collection. The two things missing from the whole world right now.
What was it that inspired you to become an artist?
I was raised in a house that loved art. My father, who was a doctor by profession, had his own studio and painted all his life. This led myself and my siblings into the artist’s world as well, and now most of us are involved in some form of art, either by profession or as a hobby.
How does Jordan itself inspire you and your work?
Jordan is a big inspiration for me. The blue skies, summer days, the spectacular desert landscapes, the colorful houses in the villages across the country – almost everything I see inspires me. My work is focussed on Arabic culture and art, so I find myself in a place where it’s very easy to get inspired every day.
Can you describe Jordan’s creative scene for us?
Jordan has a wealth of talented artists – be they painters, sculptors, architects, photographers, or fashion and jewellery designers. Many of them have already gained regional and international recognition. But the art movement is growing here in Jordan. Young talent is emerging constantly with innovative works and new styles. The local art scene really is becoming increasingly recognised. For example, in September 2016 I was part of the launch of the first Amman Design Week, which gave a big confidence boost to the creative scene here in Jordan.
Can you tell us about what Amman Design Week was like?
It was very exciting month for art and art lovers in Jordan. It was a great opportunity for artists and designers to showcase their work to local, regional and international audiences. It was a chance to show people how art is really limitless – not just painting and sculpture. There was a huge installation 12 meters high designed around the Arabic alphabet that really wowed when you walked in. The reactions from the visiting public was beautiful… from little school kids discussing, learning and admiring the work exhibited, to even Her Mahesty Queen Rania who purchased a few of my pieces. The project was organised under her patronage and I was honoured that she bought two of my chairs, iron works based on Arabic calligraphy, one for Love and one for Peace. It began as a small idea but the organisers, volunteers and everyone who was involved in putting it all together did an extraordinary job.
Where’s the best spot to get an art hit in Jordan?
Jabal Al Weibdeh in old Amman. It has the The Jordan National Gallery of Fine Arts and Darat al Funun which launched in 1988 as an initiative to support the arts and artists of Jordan and the Arab world. Many artists live and work there. The 1st circle in Amman is also considered an art hub. Dar Al Anda Art Gallery, Wadi Finan for Art, Nabad Art Gallery, Salam Kanaan Gallery, Kareem Art Gallery, Foresight, Orient Gallery are just a few that you can visit and enjoy some local, regional and international works of art.
You also design tattoos – so where is the best place to get a tattoo in Jordan?
Yes I do, calligraphy tattoos are becoming very popular here in Amman, and I get more and more design requests every day. For my own tattoos, I went to Huzz tattoo parlour for the names of my children. For my wife’s name and the wedding ring I had tattooed on my finger to mark our 15th year anniversary, I went to Fareed Hattar. Both are excellent tattoo parlours.
In your eyes, what is it that really sets Jordan apart as a destination?
Although Jordan is a small country, it has a wealth of treasures to visit and enjoy. The blue skies and seas are beautiful. We have Petra, our world heritage site, the Dead Sea the lowest point on earth, and the majestic Wadi Rum, and Mount Nebo, the Baptism site, and the many desert castles and ancient ruins scattered all over the country. There’s so much history here. But Amman the capital is an exciting city visit and to explore. The good food and the good people are what sets Jordan apart. They make it a peaceful, stable and interesting country.
When do you think is the best time to visit Jordan?
Jordan is beautiful all year round, but spring is very interesting, because of the great weather. It’s the perfect temperature for visiting any city and is a great time for hiking trips, camping and other outdoor activities. Jordan is a peaceful, safe place. Everybody is welcome here.
Do you have a favourite place or spot to visit in Jordan?
For me, it has to be camping in the majestic Wadi Rum desert. The landscape of Wadi Rum is made of spectacular sandstone rock mountains surrounded by sandy plains. To meet and talk to the welcoming Bedouins there turns every trip to a remarkable one. Everyone raves about the incredible sunsets, but nighttime in Wadi Rum is just as beautiful – seeing those thousands of stars shining in the dark sky – it’s absolutely stunning.
Lastly, if you could sum up your daily life in one sentence, how would you describe it?
My day is all about work, family and friends.