Srinagar, Mar 12: Young artists in Kashmir have taken up a daunting task to revive the ancient art of calligraphy with modern ways. Meet Srinagar's brilliant artists who displayed their works which may look different in appearance but converge in their essence.
Ishfar Ali, Calligraphy Artist
A katib (calligrapher) by profession, Ishfaq Ali presented his work as contemporary calligraphy- a fusion of calligraphy and painting.
He revives the ancient traditional calligraphy art. Using paper pulp which is traditionally induced with calligraphic patterns.
Hailing from Zadibal area of Srinagar, Ishfar is inspired by the art of Paper machie and ancient calligraphy with which his family was associated for decades.
After Graduating from Applied Arts from the Institute of Music and Fine Arts, University of Kashmir, Ali has been doing Islamic calligraphy for 10 years and exhibited his art at many State and National events.
He also uses dark colours to paint Quranic verses and famous poetic verses.
“I use brushes when I do calligraphy on canvas. Arabic fonts featuring modern elements have become so ubiquitous in people's daily lives within the region that it’s hard to believe that they hardly existed over decades ago,” he said.
The young man was fortunate to have his master in his life from whom he got work and started doing contemporary calligraphy.
“My calligraphy looks more like a painting. People find it very attractive. It is difficult and time-consuming to make calligraphy with painting brushes. It needs patience and focus,” he said.
Calligraphy requires a set of tools and materials. Ali keeps his antique box always with him. He uses a special brush, colours, ink and paper, a shallow ink tray and a personalized seal.
“Calligraphy is an art,” he says. “It’s not just writing. Artists have their own unique brush strokes slanted in different ways that people recognize as being from that particular individual.”
Asking him about the challenges of doing calligraphy brought an unexpected answer.
“When I’m asked to do a calligraphy demonstration, I always want to know how much time I’m allowed,” he said.
“If they want it done in fifteen minutes, I tell them no. It takes a lot of time because there’s no way to do a rush job in calligraphy.”
Ali is living an interesting life that gives his heart and soul peace through his art. Expressing his love for the oldest antique calligraphy, he says, “This century-old traditional calligraphy art takes you directly back to the 19th century. Bearing traces of the past the beautiful calligraphy displays different types like nastalik.”
In Kashmir, the arrival of Amir-e-Kabir Mir Sayid Ali Hamdani (RA) proved a seminal event vis-à-vis calligraphy. The followers of Shah-e-Hamdan included Persian calligraphers as well and soon their art began to flourish in Kashmir.
Shafiya Shafi, Calligraphy Artist
Shafia Shafi from the Lal Bazar area of Srinagar is a young artist and calligrapher whose work stays faithful to the old tradition while incorporating modern designs.
Her art focuses on the fusion of mandala art (a mandala is a complex abstract design that is usually circular) and calligraphy.
The 26-year-old Shafia, who has a post-graduation in psychology, is taking Kashmir's richest art – calligraphy to new heights.
Shafiya's passion for art and calligraphy allowed her to open a business venture.
" I am designing calligraphy and paper machie patterns on pottery and musical instruments. During the marriage season in Kashmir, I take orders from brides. My clients are mostly based in Kashmir," she said
She showcases her work on social media pages and her work is appreciated by everyone.
Nadiya Mushtaq Mir, Calligraphy Artist
Nadiya Mushtaq Mir from Kralpora, Budgam tries hard to keep this traditional art form alive, which was once the pride of downtown.
“Downtown is the hub of arts and crafts. Even the great calligraphy artists were from there. As an artist, I was very interested in spreading this Art as much as I could. I want to be a part of its revival in Kashmir,” she said.
After learning the art at home during shutdowns. She started calligraphy with acrylic colours on her kitchen tiles.
" I have learned this art on YouTube. I learnt a very important technique of how to put the Kalam(a pen) down, stop with some pressure and slowly bring it up, using just only the tip. It’s a traditional method, there’s no other way of doing it. It gives me energy, peace and freshness,” she said.
People usually dedicate their entire lifetime to learning and promoting this art. But this young woman is part of the process for the revival of Islamic calligraphy in Kashmir.
Starting this art form by impersonating the work of veteran calligraphers. Mir finds an easy way out: she started her Facebook and Instagram pages and has developed a clientele in Iran, Dubai and different parts of India.
“Designing gives me happiness. I am displaying my work through pictures on social media. After getting a good response, I started getting orders from different countries. I want people, especially students, to learn it,” she said.
After passing her post-graduation in economics from Kashmir University. She was captivated by her artwork which gives her inner peace and satisfaction.
“There is something magical in Islamic calligraphy art. Whenever I do it, I feel like I am communicating with Almighty Allah. This art is taking us to a different peaceful world. It also redefines our perceptions about the world,” she explained.
The young lady sometimes faces trouble in getting stationery for the art as she finds it too costly.
“Islamic calligraphy is time-consuming which is why it is different and needs a proper focus as well. It costs a lot of energy and is stationary. But I still love to do it. My parents, friends and siblings encourage me and it gives me more strength to further pursue it,” said Mir.
There are seven major Islamic calligraphy styles with hundreds of varieties coming out of them. The most famous is Kufi followed by Naskh, Thulth, Raja, Muhaqqaq and Nastaliq.
Earlier, in Kashmir, Islamic calligraphy had much importance and the best calligraphers enjoyed fame and their styles were well-known. “Islamic calligraphy has a glorious history in Kashmir. Ibu Muqlah Sheerazi, one of the greatest Islamic Calligraphers created six classic styles of Persian Calligraphy namely Tahqiq, Raiyaan, Toqi, Riqah, Sols, & lastly Naksh,” she added.
“It’s the Kalam( a traditional pen) stroke that makes calligraphy beautiful,” she explains. “The technique must be very precise and takes a lot of practice.”