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01 December 2023

Latifa bint Mohammed launches inaugural Dubai Calligraphy Biennale

By E247

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, Her Highness Sheikha Latifa bint Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Chairperson of the Dubai Culture and Arts Authority (Dubai Culture) and Member of the Dubai Council, unveiled Dubai’s inaugural Biennale, the Dubai Calligraphy Biennale. Featuring more than 200 distinguished local and international calligraphers and artists, the Biennale seeks to underscore the significance of calligraphy as a powerful medium for cultural expression.

The Biennale, which will be open until 31 October, comprises 19 exhibitions across 35+ locations in Dubai, treating visitors to diverse works that draw inspiration from traditional and modern calligraphy and typography in 8 languages. Taking place as part of the Biennale is the 11th edition of the Dubai International Arabic Calligraphy Exhibition, which is showcasing over 75 artistic pieces crafted by approximately 50 calligraphers from 17 nationalities and organised by Dubai Culture in collaboration with Dubai Collection, Art Dubai, and Etihad Museum, the exhibition’s venue.

Her Highness Sheikha Latifa bint Mohammed visited the International Arabic Calligraphy Exhibition and expressed her admiration for the strikingly beautiful scripts that seamlessly weave traditional elements with contemporary styles. Her Highness praised the masterpieces for their exceptional quality and portrayal of the artists’ creative aspirations, highlighting the aesthetic splendour of Arabic calligraphy. Her Highness also took a special interest in several contemporary artworks from the private collection of His Highness Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Vice President and Prime Minister of the UAE and Ruler of Dubai, and appreciated select pieces from the Dubai Collection initiative and other prominent art collections from the Arab region.

Her Highness said: “Dubai Calligraphy Biennale is a testament to the emirate’s vibrant creative spirit, celebrating its rich cultural fabric and diverse influences. I would like to express my heartfelt gratitude to all the exhibiting artists for shedding light on calligraphy and typography art. It fills me with immense pride to witness such esteemed names in calligraphy converging in Dubai and displaying their unparalleled mastery. Dubai consistently pioneers cultural causes, championing initiatives that harmoniously fuse authenticity, tradition, and innovation. In doing so, the city amplifies its stature in the creative economy, drawing from its rich cultural legacy to reflect its visionary aspirations.”

Her Highness Sheikha Latifa underscored that the Biennale embodies Dubai’s commitment to preserving and elevating the art of calligraphy, and showcasing its profound artistic spirit to the world. “This celebration, with its wealth of artistic contributions, further adorns Dubai’s dynamic creative canvas, serving as a testament to our unstinting dedication to create an environment where exceptional talents can thrive, in turn enhancing the prominence of Dubai’s cultural and creative sector,” she said.

Her Highness reflected upon the recognition the Dubai International Arabic Calligraphy Exhibition has earned over the years, observing: “Calligraphy remains an integral pillar of our national identity, elegantly echoing the depth and richness of our local heritage and the expansive tapestry of Arabic language, and celebrating the beauty and cultural richness inherent in Arab creativity.”

The 11th edition of the exhibition delves deeper into the intricate intersections of calligraphy within the realm of fine art, exploring the timeless allure of Arabic letters that have ignited the imagination of countless artists through the ages. The exhibition showcases a curated selection of modern and contemporary visual art masterpieces in collaboration with some of the region’s most esteemed art collections, with a host of eminent artists and calligraphers as honoured guests. The esteemed roster includes calligraphers Mouneer Alshaarani from Syria, Musaad Khudair from Egypt, Rasheed Butt from Pakistan, and Mohammed Ozcay, Fatima Ozcay, and Mohammed Al-Tamimi from Turkey, besides professor Ugur Darman from Turkey.

The exhibition presents a mesmerising range of Arabic scripts, spanning from the geometric elegance of Kufic and Diwani, the fluid grace of Thuluth and Naskh, the historic charm of Moroccan-Andalusian Mabsout and Thuluth, to the intricate grandeur of Thuluth Jali, Muhaqqiq, Rayhani, and other masterful forms that showcase unparalleled craftsmanship. The exhibition is also enriched by an array of avant-garde pieces where calligraphers have infused modernity into age-old practices, offering innovative artistic interpretations that enhance the vibrancy and beauty of the Arabic alphabet.

Further deepening its narrative, the exhibition traces the intimate bond between Arabic calligraphy and fine art, shedding light on works from luminaries of modern and contemporary visual art, including masterpieces by esteemed artists such as Jamil Hamoudi, Diaa Azzawi, Khaled Ben Slimane, Kamal Boullata, Ali Balagha, Hassan Masoudi, Youssef Ahmed, Nasser Al-Salem, and Abdul Qadir Al Rais.

The Dubai International Arabic Calligraphy Exhibition serves as a canvas where artists manifest their artistic ingenuity, visions, and aspirations. Turkish calligrapher Mehmet Ozcay’s works epitomise the elegance of the Thuluth Jali script. In the vivid spectrum of art displayed, paintings titled ‘Blue Dream’ and ‘Spring’ by Turkish artist Fatima Ozcay stand out. The works of their compatriot calligrapher Mohammed Al-Tamimi are no less beatiful. Palestinian calligrapher Ahmed Nafeth Al-Asmar showcases a pair of paintings, illuminating the allure of the clear Thuluth and Thuluth Moshabba’a scripts.

Algerian artist Munir Tahraoui has come up with a unique piece that blends the naskh and thuluth scripts. The Moroccan scripts – Andalusian mabsout and Andalusian thuluth – find representation in the pieces by Moroccan artist Belaid Hamidi.

From Iran, Omid Rabbani brings forth the nuances of Persian script in his works titled ‘The Last Sermon’, ‘Surah Al-Qalam’, and ‘Surah Al-'Alaq’. Palestinian Ihab Thabet pays homage to the artistry of the late calligrapher Muhammad Shawqi through his exquisite pieces.
Egyptian Ahmed Fahad is displaying a freeform composition in the Thuluth Al-Jali and Al-Muhaqqaq scripts. Emirati talent, Khaled Al-Jallaf is showcasing two striking paintings, ‘The Light of Ayatul Kursi’ and ‘The Beauty of Ayatul Kursi’, complementing the diverse yet harmonious collection at the exhibition.

Iraqi Mahfouz Thul-Nun exemplified the artistry in the Muḥaqqaq and Rayhani scripts with his patchwork of the rhymed monologue poem, ‘Supplications.’ Further, the painting ‘Degrees’ showcases the imaginative flair of Bahraini calligrapher Ali Shihab.

Among the Emirati talents, Imran Al Balooshi is behind works inspired by the verses of Surah Al-An’am. The exhibition also radiates the dynamism of Arabic calligraphy with contributions from Haji Noor AlDeenn.

Dr. Salahuddin Shirzad’s artistry shines through in his paintings ‘Palms’ and ‘Doaa,’ while Hoda Malik channels the finesse of ornamentation in her creations ‘Mashallah’ and ‘The Palm Tree.’ Saudi calligrapher Ahmed Abu Sarir captivates with his enchanting compositions inspired by traditional Arabic masterpieces.

The exhibition also celebrates the works of numerous other calligraphers, including Sima Cinar, Muhammad Saffar Patti, Waqar Ahmed, Muhammad Nabati, Abdel Nasser al-Masry, Zaki Sayid Oglu, Ali Mamdouh, Muhammad al-Nouri, Dr. Bilal Mukhtar, Salman Akbar, Anwar Al-Halwani, Jamal Al-Turk, Muhammad Farouk Al-Haddad, Wissam Shawkat, Narjes Nour Al-Din, Musab Al-Douri, Fahad Al-Mujahdi, Lulwah Al-Hamoud, Ali Al-Jizawi, Aicha Bin Ibrahim, Muthanna Al-Obaidi, Israfil Sherji, Mohsen Aqamiri, Sabah Arbili, Hakim Ghannam, Fatima Salmin, Fatima Al-Dhanhani, and Uday Al-Araji. Each artist lends his or her own unique touch, underscoring the vast diversity and depth of Arabic calligraphy.

The inaugural edition of the 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 driving the local cultural scene, including Dubai Design District (D3), The Cultural and Scientific Association, Mohammed bin Rashid Library, Expo City Dubai, DIFC Gate Avenue, Sultan Bin Ali Al Owais Cultural Foundation, Juma Al-Majid Center, Dubai’s Department of Economy and Tourism, 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.