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06 December 2023

History of Arabic Calligraphy in UAE: Exceptional & inspiring Emirati creativity and experiences

By E247

Organised by Dubai Culture in partnership with Hroof Arabiya magazine ..History of Arabic Calligraphy in the United Arab Emirates: Exceptional & inspiring Emirati creativity and experiences

Dubai Culture and Arts Authority (Dubai Culture) welcomes visitors to explore an exceptional exhibition at Al Shindagha Museum, the UAE's largest heritage museum. This exhibition showcases the profound passion of Emirati talent for the art of calligraphy, offering a reflection of the country's deep interest and commitment to this art form. Titled ‘History of Arabic Calligraphy in the United Arab Emirates,’ this exhibition is part of the inaugural Dubai Calligraphy Biennale, held under the patronage of His Highness Sheikh Hamdan bin Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Crown Prince of Dubai and Chairman of the Executive Council of Dubai, until October 31st. The biennale comprises 19 unique exhibitions across 35+ locations throughout Dubai.

The exhibition, which is held in partnership with Hroof Arabiya magazine and with lead support from Sandooq Al Watan, revisits the origins of this craft, tracing the roots of the national interest in calligraphy. In retrospect, it is an insight into the efforts of Emirati calligraphers to present the versatility of the Arabic letter. It also highlights the efforts of 12 Emirati calligraphers and artists, who, through their 12 artworks, shed light on their contributions to advancing this art form. HH Sheikha Khawla bint Ahmed bin Khalifa Al Suwaidi, the wife of HH Sheikh Tahnoon bin Zayed Al Nahyan, the UAE’s National Security Advisor, and founder of Khawla Art and Culture, presents her work ‘Belfeker,’ reflecting her literary creativity and poetry aimed at motivating people and pushing them to think in positive ways. The artwork ‘Greatest of Earnings are Those that Benefit the Worshippers’ reveals the craftsmanship of the calligrapher Hussain Al Sarri and the depth and length of his artistic experience dating back to the beginning of the seventies. Calligrapher and visual artist Mohammed Mandi is also participating with two artworks from his ‘Hurrufiyat’, which is an abstract expression of the hurrufiya script with modern art approaches.

The artwork 'In an Alter of Themselves,' inspired by the poems of Emirati writer and poet Salha Ghabish, is the result of cooperation between visual artist, Dr. Najat Makki, and Sudanese calligrapher Tagelsir Hassan. Abdul Qader Al Rais presents ‘El Waw Series’, which reflects the adaptation of Arabic letters with visual art using watercolour; created during his first decade of integrating the Arabic letter into his visual art representations.

Calligrapher Khalid Al Jallaf, the President of the Emirates Society for Arabic Calligraphy, shares his artistic creation via a quote from His Highness Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Vice President and Prime Minister of the UAE and Ruler of Dubai. Meanwhile, Ali Al Hammadi expresses his expertise in Kufic script, illumination, and gilding through his work ‘Helya’. Artist Mahmood Al Abadi presents Surat Al Fat'h elegantly written in thuluth script. The artwork 'No Loyalty but to the Country' by artist Fatima Al Dhanhani beautifully captures the essence of classical Arabic calligraphy. Mohammed Eisa Khalfan showcases his creativity in the artwork ‘Surat Al Hashr’. The piece 'Every Love is a Branch of its Love' by artist Fatma Salmeen reflects her deep passion for the diwani jali and thuluth jali scripts.

In addition to the collection of calligraphy works, the exhibition presents a unique 'Archival Material' section that offers visitors the opportunity to explore an array of ways in which Arabic calligraphy was very evident and present during the history of the UAE pre-federation and after. The section showcases a variety of correspondence letters, governance, personal documents, archives, and books relating to Islam and Fiq’h scholarship, in addition to archival personal documents provided by Alserkal Cultural Foundation, Dr Mohammed Abdul Rahim Sultan Al Olama, and the family of the late Butti Bin Bishr.

The exhibition also includes six photographs of the Museum of the Future, the Dubai Petroleum Building, the Cultural and Scientific Association in Dubai, Wahat Al Karam in Abu Dhabi, Al Hikma Mosque in Sharjah, and Amna Al Ghurair Mosque in Ajman. Through the photographic exhibit, emerging Emirati photographer Bader Al Marzooqi documents the integration of Arabic calligraphy in contemporary architecture and modern design.

The inaugural edition of Dubai Calligraphy Biennale is supported by Al Rostamani Group (Lead Supporter) and Sandooq Al Watan (Supporter), and is being held in partnership with a variety of entities in the local cultural scene, including: Dubai Design District (D3), The Cultural and Scientific Association, Mohammed bin Rashid Library, Expo City Dubai, DIFC Gate Avenue, Museum of the Future, Sultan Bin Ali Al Owais Cultural Foundation, Juma Al-Majid Center, Dubai’s Department of Economy and Tourism, Dubai Media Office, Dubai Municipality, Alserkal Avenue, Art Dubai, Women’s Museum, Tashkeel, Art Jameel, Mattar Bin Lahej Gallery, Boccara Gallery, Foundry, Khawla Art Gallery, Firetti Gallery, Efie Gallery, BEDU, AWC Gallery, Hobb Bookstore, Opera Gallery, Mondoir Art Gallery, thejamjar, Medaf, Mirzam, Kalimat, Slay Café, Frame Café, 3IXAM, Huawei, and Level Shoes.