Arabic Calligraphy

While admiring some Arabic artwork, I discovered some beautiful pictures that seemed to be made completely from words. Intrigued, I decided to research this artistic form. I discovered that this artistic style is known as Arabic calligraphy. This style originated from Islamic leaders’ desire to avoid using images to represent God or his creations. In Arabic culture, calligraphy is considered to be infused with religious significance due to the artwork being created from the same alphabet as the Qur’an. Due to these beliefs, calligraphy is used in almost all forms of Islamic religious expression to this day.

The different types of scripts that can be distinguished by their particular characteristics. For example, Kufic writing, which is more commonly found in mosques in the western Arab world and ancient coins, can be identified by a somewhat geometric style and their focus on horizontal lines. Today, Kufic writing is primarily used for decoration.

The cursive styles are more legible and easier to write than Kufic. There were originally six different scripts. However, due to a lack of record in ancient texts, they are becoming increasingly difficult to distinguish and study. The most common style is Naskh which was eventually used for the Qur’an and is the basis of modern print. Other scripts include Tawqi’ and Muhaqqaq, each of which have miniature versions, Riqaa’ and Rihani respectively. Tawqi was used primarily to sign official acts. Muhaqqaq was originally used to duplicate loose sheets of the Qur’an and describe particularly well-executed calligraphy.

The style of calligraphy I find the most fascinating is calligram. Calligrams are human-like figures, animals with religious significance, or various man-made objects formed using written words like Allah and Muhammad woven into each other. Apparently, this practice is connected to Muslim mysticism and is found in many other countries surrounding the Arab world such as Turkey, old Persia, and India. Unfortunately, professional calligraphers do not usually acknowledge calligrams as “authentic” calligraphy. However, this form of expression continues to be very popular. Calligrams and Arabic calligraphy have expanded to the west due to its elegance and beauty. I’ve always been captivated by the allure of calligraphers’ art and hope I can recreate some of their designs in the future.

Mounir Fatmi

Mounir Fatmi is a Moroccan artist who works with multi-media designs. Though he is currently working in paris, his works are closely related to his life in Morocco, The Middle East, Islam, and the Arabic language. Mounir has been able to create masterpieces that start a conversation between modernity and tradition and how religion has changed over the passage of time. His work had been shown all over the world and he is one of the most famous Moroccan artists working today. Fatmi is famous for the global quality of his work. His art conveys themes centering on terrorism, religion, acceptance, and nationalism. A controversial but respected artist in the Middle East and North Africa, Fatmi is quickly becoming an extremely important figure in the Arab Contemporary Art scene.

Though the meanings behind his works are not always so clear, the ambiguity of his works aid in starting a conversation between his audience. Fatmi’s work called the Paradox, shows verses from the Quran cut out of the saw of a steel cutter. The juxtaposition between religion and machine create an interesting discussion of modernity while demonstrating the artists own qualms about his faith. Mounir Fatmi is still in the early stages of his artistic career, but he is already proving himself to be a top contender in the art world. He has the potential to help bring attention to more North African and Middle Eastern artists that deserve to be viewed by the rest of the world.
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Destroying Biases

Something I’ve really come to understand over this past semester is the danger of a ‘biases’ or a “Single Story”. In one of my classes, we watched a TED talk about the dangers of a single story. Everyone has a biases due to their experiences, the way they are raised, and the economic power of large states. If we continue our lives refusing to try to understand the different peoples and their cultures, we are not only missing out on a whole world of possibilities but putting entire cultures and peoples in danger. I attached the video I talked about below. I really encourage everyone to watch it. It’s eye opening.