Following on from the Jin Jîyan Azadî print released on International Women’s Day earlier this year, Golnar Kat Rahmani and I returned to the workshop. Our mission – pushing forward a global feminist movement – and our message – “Jin Jiyan Azadi” or “Woman Life Freedom” – remained the same. Our bi-scriptual design with both Arabic and Roman scripts (in Farsi and English) was slightly reconfigured and put back on the press. We printed in a limited run of 28 prints, available in both gold and silver editions. Keep reading to discover some of the ideas going into composition, material choice and letterpress design process.
The Origins of Jin Jiyan Azadi
The forth print in the Small Print; Big Idea series, these prints aim to uplift the voices and highlight the experiences of women around the world. The origin of the slogan goes back to the Kurdish freedom movement of the late twentieth century – coined by Kurdish women fighters. It has become popular around the world and was chanted at gatherings throughout Europe on 25 November 2015, during gatherings marking the International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women.
Since 2022, "jin jiyan azadi" (also "zan zendegi azadi") has become the rallying call to end oppression and violence against women in Iran. This letterpress printed design is to celebrate these powerful words on International Women’s Day, and every other day of the year. To quote collaborator Golnar Kat Rahmani "Woman Life Freedom is a daily practice” (زن زندگی آزادی تمرین روزمرهست)
Iran Revolution 2022
In mid September 2022, a protest movement began following the death in custody of 22-year old Mahsa Amini. Amini was arrested by Iran’s morality police for allegedly violating Iran's mandatory hijab law by wearing the mandatory headscarf "improperly" while visiting Tehran.
Woman Life Freedom are the words that have been shouted, spraypainted and typed to help carry the movement. Acts of support have varied – both online and in person. Many women around the world posted videos online of themselves cutting off their hair in solidarity. For a woman to have her hair blowing in the wind is illegal in Iran and this powerful act of defiance helped spread the message to new areas. Meanwhile, streets throughout Iran and around the world have seen demonstrations, most notably in Istanbul, Berlin, Los Angeles, London and Beirut – and many are now calling the movement the Iranian Revolution 2022 (not to be confused with a previous Iranian Revolution in 1979). In Iran, the continued rebellion against the regime has resulted in 500+ deaths at protests as well as death sentences and executions.
I wanted this project to use multiple scripts, to make clear the internationality of the problem faced and create a sense of connection. I didn’t have access to any Arabic type to print with, or know how to design with it, so I reached out to Golnar. Her Persian designs often use stark vertical and horizontal lines as well as political messages. After a phone call she explained a central idea in her typography was to give Persian a modern feel, not weighed down by viewer’s preconceived ideas of Arabic scripts. I used this as a starting point in the design and pulled out different fonts from the p98a type collection and investigated how her designs might be printed letterpress with the materials at hand in the workshop.
Legibility vs readability
After Golnar designed the Persian lettering, I assembled the metal ready to be printed. The composition of the Persian has a very active feel, pushed forward by the content of the poster and the play between Roman and Arabic scripts. Including the transliteration “jin jiyan azadi" alongside the Persian meant the words would be quickly understood by Farsi speakers, so Golnar was able to be more playful with her design, swapping legibility for readability. Put simply, we included additional strokes that do not serve as letterforms, instead they aid the visual storytelling – the story of protest, of repeated action, of activism and activity.
We printed the Persian layer of text together. Having Golnar in the workshop for this step was invaluable, as she was able to identify which parts of the Persian text were essential for legibility, and which parts of the composition we could allow the medium of letterpress to come through. One particular rule (the name of the typographic element we used to create straight lines) needed to be raised because if this element of the composition wasn’t printed solid, it became a different letter within Golnar's mono-width Persian type system. The first edition with red Persian was printed in an edition of 36 and distributed to friends, family and collaborators around the world.
For the second and third editions, we moved the design forward with technical lessons we had learned. Included within the price is a donation to Woman Life Freedom collective in Berlin. Check out the Gold and Silver editions in the shop, part of the Small Print; Big Idea series.