Workshop Islamic Calligraphy: Nigeria, Morocco and Egypt

Island of San Giorgio Maggiore, Venice
plus MAR, 09 2018

In the Islamic world, calligraphy is the main medium of visual aesthetic expression and is both transcultural and transdisciplinary. It is transcultural, because the various calligraphic styles have been influenced by different cultural contexts, although there is also a certain continuity, especially as regards religious calligraphy. And it is transdisciplinary because it concerns not only the strictly religious dimension, but also the visual arts and poetry. In this workshop, addressed to Ca’ Foscari students of Arabic and all visual arts enthusiasts, the Fondazione Cini Centre for Comparative Studies of Civilisations and Spiritualities aims to explore the complexity and beauty of Islamic calligraphy.

Ida Zilio-Grandi (Ca’ Foscari University) will provide the historical and theoretical background to calligraphy in the Islamic world, linking up theological and philological aspects. Andrea Brigaglia (Cape Town University) will discuss calligraphy in Sub-Saharan Africa, especially in Nigeria, one of the richest but little known historical and artistic contexts. For the occasion, the Fondazione Cini will commission a handwritten Koran from the Nigerian calligrapher Ka’ana Umar. The art of Nigerian calligraphy has been the subject of violent attacks by the Boko Haram jihadist movement, responsible for the deaths of thousands of innocent people. These victims have not only been the members of non-Muslim religions but also of traditional Islam, such as religious leaders and the Sufi confraternities.
Ka’ana Umar had to flee to save his life, but he continues his work as a refugee in exile. And, lastly, Aymon Kreil (Ghent University) will focus on his anthropological research into calligraphy in contemporary Egypt.

The workshop will be led by Sadik Haddari, a Moroccan artist, well-versed in classical forms of calligraphy, but also capable of blending various styles, to produce writing verging on the languages of figurative art. Sadik Haddari will explain the basic notions of calligraphy and help members of the audience to try their own hand (sheets and ink will be provided). The event will end with a performance by the artist.

Download Programme Islamic Calligraphy