Sharjah museum gives free lessons in Arabic calligraphy

Month-long course aims to revive traditional writing styles

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Sharjah Museum of Calligraphy has been promoting the art of Arabic calligraphy through free lessons to the public since it opened in 2002.

This year, the museum is running a one-month course that started on May 9. It offers hands-on experience, types of ornamentations, and techniques used in calligraphic work.

Every Monday and Wednesday, people learn the practice and methods of implementing the Diwani script, a formal calligraphy style of the Ottoman court that was developed between the 16th and early 17th centuries.

The script developed further to include the styles Riq'a Diwani and Jeli Diwani.

The first does not have any decorations and lines are straight, except for the lower parts of the letters.

The Jeli Diwani, or clear style, has intertwined letters and straight lines from top to bottom.

“Calligraphy is a unique art that distinguishes the Arab nations from the rest of the world and it certainly deserves the attention given to it by the government of Sharjah,” said Shaher Al Taref, instructor and calligraphist at the Sharjah Department of Culture.

Mr Al Taref said it was important to promote calligraphy because of a lack of representation of the Arabic language in modern technology tools.

“No matter how advanced technology can get, we cannot give up on the human hand to produce creative works including masterpieces from letters,” he said.

“For us as calligraphists, every Arabic letter is one that has a soul and unique characteristics which allow calligraphists to employ their own styles.”

Mr Al Taref holds a diploma in calligraphy from the Fine and Applied Arts Institute in Syria.

“I have instructed two other courses in previous years, including one online,” he said.

The Sharjah Museum of Calligraphy, part of the Sharjah Museums Authority, holds two courses each year.

Residents from countries including Arab nations, Afghanistan, India, Bangladesh and Pakistan have taken part in training courses over the years.

Sister and brother Haseena and Abdullah Salehi, from Afghanistan, signed up for this course for the first time.

Both have loved calligraphy since they were children.

Diwani script is a formal calligraphy style of the Ottoman court that was developed between the 16th and early 17th centuries. Andy Scott/ The National

“I’ve always loved Arabic calligraphy but had no time or opportunity to take dedicated courses before now,” said Haseena, 25, a cost control manager at a company in Ajman.

She takes a two-hour leave from her job to attend the course.

“I have to stay in the office after hours to make up for the time I spend on the course but it's a fair price for me, as it means I learn what I love,” she said.

Her brother Abdullah, 20, tried to convince his friends to join him in the course.

“They will start next week,” he said.

He said he knows the basics and has learnt how styles of Arabic calligraphy differ from one another.

Yemeni father of six, Yassir Al Saadi, 41, tried to share his passion for Arabic calligraphy with his children.

“None of them wanted to come but that didn’t discourage me and I come from Dubai for this,” he said.

Mr Al Saadi, a technician at Dubai Media Corporation, said calligraphy was an art, rather than a form of writing. It is his second course at the museum.

“The first one was nearly three years ago and taught participants Al Thuluth script. These are not-to-miss opportunities for me that teach me what I love while also preserving a distinctive art,” he said.

Eman Yousef, 37, from Egypt, whose mother is a calligraphist, drives from the Al Qudra area in Dubai to take the course.

“I took part in other art and calligraphy courses that were previously organised by Sharjah Museums Authority,” she said.

She said art and calligraphy went hand in hand.

“One can make captivating paintings using letters,” she said “It has even become a trend with many celebrities like Angelina Jolie using Arabic calligraphy in their tattoos.”

Located in the house of Hamad Al Midfa in the Heart of Sharjah, the museum displays paintings by local and international artists and calligraphers.

Objects on display include Ottoman silver pen cases and inkwells that date to the early 18th century and were presented to the museum by Sharjah ruler Sheikh Dr Sultan bin Muhammad Al Qasimi.

The museum also holds exhibitions and conducts programmes that are accessible to all.

In May 2020, a one-month course was organised by the museum that taught 30 prisoners the basics of Al Roka and Al Diwani Arabic writing styles.

Updated: May 13, 2022, 5:08 AM
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