Color in Islamic Art and Culture


From the conference website:

The Hamad bin Khalifa Symposium on Islamic Art, organized by Sheila S. Blair and Jonathan M. Bloom, is a leading international conference on Islamic art and culture. It is co-sponsored by Virginia Commonwealth University School of the Arts, VCUQatar and the Qatar Foundation. Previous symposia were held in Richmond, Virginia in 2004 and in Doha, Qatar in 2007. The third biennial symposium, And Diverse Are Their Hues: Color in Islamic Art and Culture, will be held in Córdoba, Spain, November 2-4, 2009.

For those of you interested in studying Islamic Art in more detail and depth, the Hamad Bin Khalifa Symposium on Islamic Art offers a great chance to interact with scholars and artists in the field. Register now!

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.

Arabesque at the Kennedy Center

Arabesque at the Kennedy Center

The Kennedy Center is currently hosting a three-week festival called Arabesque: Arts of the Arab World (February 23-March 15, 2009). The festival includes music, dance and theatre events, as well as exhibits by contemporary artists.

I visited the festival last Saturday, and was excited to see the work of two calligraphers displayed. Hassan Massoudy is an Iraqi artist who lives in France. He uses a large brush and vibrant colors to create his calligraphic art. His work was exhibited at the Kennedy Center in a 3-sided multimedia display, featuring examples of his art and video footage of him creating calligraphy.

Hassan Massoudy Calligraphy

Hassan Massoudy Calligraphy

Farah Behbehani is a graphic designer and calligrapher from Kuwait. For her masters’ thesis, she created a series of calligraphic illustrations based on a classic Sufi poem, The Conference of the Birds. Each illustration was accompanied by a decoding system which she describes as, “designed to make Arabic calligraphy more accessible for non-Arabic readers.” The spread below is from her book, which can be ordered from

Farah Behdehani

Farah Behbehani Calligraphy


I found this interesting experimental video called “Iqra’a” on YouTube the other day. The creator of the video says that he wanted to create a short animated piece that generated awareness among children about the beauty and importance of calligraphy and the Arabic language. The name “Iqra’a” is taken from the first word spoken to the Prophet Mohammed — “read!” 

While the piece definitely highlights the importance of the written word in Islamic culture, I also liked its lightheartedness.