The art of Arab calligraphy. A union of Arabs somehow never works; there is always something avant-garde, even prophetic in the periodic Renaissance of the Arab world, a brotherhood that is alive even if it remains metaphysical and spiritual and with it the old art of Arab calligraphy. The beauty is there, a sense it emits that our own Western technical apogee may be past its peak, past its expiry date, and that the world will in some measure revert to simpler ways, and a new vitality; whatever its disabilities the Arab world does not stagnate. Squabbling, bickering, slandering and even killing each other, but there is a burst of life that the calligraphy captures…
(see link at end)…Sheikh Nassib Makarem is considered to be one of the most illustrious Arabic calligraphers in the twentieth century. In fact, he is acclaimed by most calligraphers as the first among them. His home town was destroyed during the Lebanese war (1975-1990) and his house, which he had transformed into a museum for his art pieces, was also demolished but, fortunately, most of his works were saved. …
…Apart from the various artistic tableaus which depict Nassib Makarem’s beautiful calligraphy, his miniature art pieces, which include his writings and drawings on tiny gold, silver and marble pieces of the shape and size of a grain of rice, wheat and the like, unveil Nassib Makarem’s extreme mastery of his talent, his highly balanced artistic faculty, and his firm belief in man’s potential for conceiving what is majestic regardless of size, shape or form. For him, all it takes is conviction, determination and harmony between the will and effectiveness, mind and nerve, soul and body. Apart from sheer talent, genuineness and perseverence, the real source of his excellence was his true love for beauty. With such conviction, Nassib Makarem designed his art pieces….
In 1939 the New York World Fair exhibited some of Makarem’s masterpieces. Among them was La Marseillaise, the French national anthem, written on a marble grain of rice. When one of the French army generals saw this masterpiece in Beirut, he asked the artist, “How were you able, Mr.Makarem, to put such an anthem, which the whole world was too small to contain, on a tiny grain of rice?” Another one of his masterpieces was the map of the U.S.A carved in a silver grain of rice in which the main rivers and names of the major cities were shown. One’s wonder does not stop here! The artist even filled the carving with gold. The value of this piece was estimated at that time at one hundered and fifty thousand U.S dollars….Read More:http://ddc.aub.edu.lb/projects/arabic/calligraphy/english.html
The calligraphy is an articulate expression of the subtle Arab mind; in a sense it is unfortunate that the legacy of Mohammed was stress the divergences rather than the common ground between Islam and the the two other monotheistic creeds, in order to motivate his followers when there are more reasons for agreeing than quarreling. A kind of narcissism of small differences. The echoes of the Prophet’s call to arms against the infidel still hangs over our present context: the mental universe of the Prophet, his extraordinary fate, contradictions and weaknesses, the Koran controlled consciousness and readiness to submit to a higher will with its resignation to human imperfection that is so different than the Western synopsis of heroic tension ending in sacrifice which is absent from the example of the Prophet.
(see link at end)…BEIRUT — Lebanon’s few remaining Arabic calligraphers, whose elegant script and inter
ing words transport one to another era, are working to preserve an art form struggling to compete with new technology.
“The computer is a wonderful tool but in no way can it replace an artist or produce masterpieces,” says Mahmoud Bayoun, one of the country’s best-known calligraphers, whose works have been displayed in the United States and Iran.
The 75-year-old, who learned the skill as a teenager, today uses his talent to draw up menus for the Lebanese presidency for official functions or write condolences and congratulatory messages on behalf of the prime minister.
Bayoun says the longest letter he has written was from late prime minister Rafik Hariri to Syria’s then president, Hafez Al Assad, on the occasion of a national holiday.
Hariri was assassinated in 2005 in a massive seaside bombing in Beirut that many Lebanese blamed on Syria, which denies involvement. Assad died in 2000 and was succeeded by his son Bashar.
“The letter was four pages long and written in a very elegant style,” recalls Bayoun, as he sits in his central Beirut office, surrounded by some of his works.
He also keeps busy transcribing the holy Quran as a hobby. The painstaking work requires more than three years to complete each time, and Bayoun is now working on his third edition of the holy book.
“It’s very different from the work I do for commercial purposes,” he says. “When I copy the holy Quran, I immerse myself both spiritually and physically.”
But despite his passion for penmanship, Bayoun is well aware that his is a dying skill that cannot compete with laser-sharp computers. “Calligraphy today has become more of a visual art than a useful tool and we are trying hard to preserve it,” Bayoun told the news agency.
The art of Arabic scriptwriting was heavily influenced by Islam as, according to tradition, the holy Quran was verbally revealed to the Holy Prophet Muhammad (Peace be Upon Him) and was later transcribed.
The holy Quran subsequently inspired generations of calligraphers who, with their brush pens made of reeds, piously endeavoured to reproduce the words using different styles….
Calligraphy also became a major form of artistic expression in Islam as Muslims disapprove of art that represents humans, especially in religious contexts.
There are various styles of calligraphy, including the geometric Kufic form with an emphasis on horizontal lines and the cursive Naskhi. Diwani script, considered the most elegant, was developed during the reign of the Ottoman Turks. It is the only style that cannot be reproduced on computers, experts say.
Although Lebanon has no calligraphic treasures such as those exposed in mosques in North Africa or Andalusia, it did produce some of the best-known masters of calligraphy including Kamel El-Baba (1905-1991) and Nassib Makarem (1889-1991).
“There are less than 10 authentic calligraphers in Lebanon today,” Bayoun says.
One of them is Salah Al Hafi, 80, who proudly recalls the day Kamel El-Baba noticed his work.
“You know before, you could earn a good living as a calligrapher,” he says, sitting in his modest apartment in Beirut’s working-class neighbourhood of Basta. “But today we have been pushed aside by computers.” His calligraphy can still be seen on numerous commemorative plaques dating back to Lebanon’s independence in 1943 and beyond, or on gravestones and flower ribbons.Read More:http://www.khaleejtimes.com/displayarticle.asp?xfile=data/middleeast/2011/July/middleeast_July606.xml§ion=middleeast&col