The 10th Tehran International Poster Biennale 2009

From the Khatt Network (

Since poster design in contemporary Iranian graphics has found a significant and established status in the international scene, the Center for Visual Arts of the Ministry of Culture and Islamic Guidance in collaboration with the Institute for Development of Visual Art plans to organize the 10th Tehran International Poster Biennial.

The deadline for submissions is August 22, 2009. Visit the Khatt Network for more information.


Islamic Calligraphy at the Met

h2_42136Mirror, 12th century, Iran. Cast bronze. Diam. 7 5/8 in. (19.3 cm). Rogers Fund, 1942 (42.136)

I received this announcement by e-mail yesterday:

Exhibition Announcement: Masterpieces of Islamic Calligraphy from The Metropolitan Museum of Art

June 2, 2009 – September 1, 2009
The Metropolitan Museum of Art, NY

Masterpieces of calligraphy from the Islamic Art Department’s collections will be on display on the south balcony for a period of three months, showcasing the calligraphic art of the Islamic world, from Spain to south Asia and beyond. The works, ranging in date from the 8th to the 19th century, will include several richly illuminated Qur’anic manuscripts, as well as sumptuous album pages in a variety of scripts, examples of inlaid metalwork, fine ceramics, and rare textiles with calligraphic elements. Many calligraphic scripts from early kufic to the later refined nasta’liq, will be shown in a range of media, demonstrating the impact and importance of this most quintessential of art forms.

This installation is presented in conjunction with Muslim Voices: Arts and Ideas, a ten-day festival and conference in New York City celebrating Islamic culture (June 5-14 2009).

(To see the other events associated with this festival, visit

Al Basmalah

Al Basmalah | May 20-29

Exhibition of Arabic Calligraphy
Showcasing artistic paintings by renowned calligraphers from the Arab and Islamic worlds

Farjam Collection Gallery (Gate Village, Building 4)
Dubai International Finance Centre (DIFC)

Al Basmalah Exhibition

Al Basmalah page 2

Deir Mar Musa calligraphy

Author’s update: The same day I wrote this post, I received the magazine National Geographic in the mail. A photograph of Deir Mar Musa was featured on the cover! Read more at National Geographic.

Mar Musa

Deir Mar Musa is a desert monastery in Syria. It was named after Saint Moses the Abyssinian, and is notable for its remote mountain location overlooking a desert valley. The monastery was founded in the mid-sixth century A.D. by the Syrian Antiochan Rite. The frescoes in the church date to the 11th and 12th centuries. In the first part of the 18th century, the monastery was abandoned and remained so until 1984.

In 1984, restoration work began through a common initiative of the Syrian state, local churches and a group of Arab and European volunteers. Today an Italian priest named Father Paulo leads the ecumenical group of nuns and monks who live and work at the monastery. Their work focuses on inter-cultural and inter-faith dialogue and sustainable agriculture, among other things.

The monastery is a place designed for reflection, and it extends hospitality to all who wish to remain there, on the conditional that they partake in the community’s work. I had the opportunity to visit Deir Mar Musa in April 2006, and was particularly taken by a piece of calligraphy hanging in the chapel. It says, “In the name of God, the merciful, the compassionate,” and reflects this community’s desire for peaceful religious co-existence in the Middle East.

Deir Mar Musa Chapel


Xi’an calligraphy

The calligraphy pieces below were seen in a shop near the Grand Mosque in Xi’an, China. They are written in the Arabic script, but reflect a distinctly Chinese aesthetic (particularly the two on the left).


Music of the Eye

Earlier this year I had the opportunity to meet Sanaa Boutayeb Naim, a Moroccan filmmaker who lives here in Washington, DC. In the fall of 2008 she produced a documentary feature about master calligrapher Mohamed Zakariya, and kindly allowed me to feature the video on the blog. In this 11-minute documentary, Mohamed Zakariya offers insight into the art of Arabic script calligraphy. I’m sure you’ll enjoy watching.

Obama in Istanbul

Calligraphy was in the news this week when President Obama visited Istanbul. The New York Times reported on April 7th, “Mr. Obama spent the morning meeting with religious leaders, and then went on a tour of Hagia Sophia, once the biggest church in Christendom and now a museum, and the famed 17th-century Blue Mosque.”

President Obama, second from right, toured the Blue Mosque in Istanbul on Tuesday.

Obama at the Blue Mosque. Calligrapher Hasan Celebi was responsible for restoring the calligraphy inscriptions in this magnificent mosque.

President Obama, second from right, toured the Hagia Sophia in Istanbul on Tuesday.

Obama at the Hagia Sophia. The circular calligraphy panels in this museum were created by calligrapher Kazasker Mustafa İzzet Efendi in the 19th century.

Design your own square kufic calligraphy

Calligrapher Mamoun Sakkal offers lessons on his website in designing a word or phrase in a style he calls “square kufic.” In this style, each letter is made up of a series of filled-in squares. Starting with a piece of graph paper, you can design your own alphabet, then create intricate patterns with these letter forms.

These designs are abstract and stylized versions of the kufic calligraphy script.

square kufic

Masterful calligraphy

This calligraphy composition features the signed work of several of the most highly reputed Ottoman calligraphers: Seyh Hamdullah, Hafiz Osman, Hafiz Yusuf, Mehmed Rasim and Mahmud Celaluddin.

Masterful calligraphy
Turkey. Early 19th century. 65.8 x 53.2 cm. Thuluth and naskh scripts. Courtesy of the Nasser D Khalili Collection of Islamic Art.

Damascus water fountain

Water fountains like this with calligraphic inscriptions can be found throughout the city of Damascus.

Damascus water fountain