Shaikh Sultan Bin Tahnoon Al Nahyan shows a keen interest in the calligraphy works of Emirati calligrapher Mohammad Mandi. He is accompanied by Dr Halit Eren (right), Director-General of Research Centre for Islamic History, Arts and Culture, Istanbul, and other officials. Image Credit: Abdul Rahman /Gulf News

Abu Dhabi: Breathtakingly intricate and detailed works are show-cased proudly under the exhibition's light, drawing visitors into the deep and mysterious world of Arabic calligraphy.

The Will of the Reed exhibition, held under the patronage of Shaikh Sultan Bin Tahnoon Al Nahyan, Chairman of the Abu Dhabi Authority for Culture and Heritage (Adach), was inaugurated on Wednesday at the Emirates Palace Hotel and will run until June 11.

"I have always been fascinated by calligraphy …when I was younger; I taught myself how to write using various calligraphic techniques but… I stopped after beginning to paint in realism. It was only when I started painting in abstract that I found myself incorporating calligraphic letters in my work," Abdul Kader Al Rayyes, an Emirati artist who has been painting for over 35 years, said.

Selected works chosen from over 700 calligraphers from 31 countries are currently on display and with over 10 different styles that artists can choose from, visitors will be provided with an opportunity to see just how rich this art form is.

"Calligraphy is unique because it portrays Arab thought to non-Arabs. It is a purely Arabic product, one not influenced in any way by the West. Calligraphy allows us to alter our image in the West and show that we also posses a beautiful form of art and thought," Mohammad Nouri Rasoul, an Iraqi expatriate who has been teaching calligraphy at the Sharjah Institute for Arabic Calligraphy for 10 years and has been practising the art for over 25 years, said.

Despite concerns that this art form, which has been practised for centuries in many cultures and countries around the world, appears to be in decline, concerted efforts are being made to preserve both the present and past worlds of calligraphy.

"Abu Dhabi has become a centre for calligraphers from around the world… it is seen as a patron for this art. The UAE is paying more attention to this art than other Arab countries, which is causing the popularity of calligraphy to increase. It has become a point of attraction for calligraphers…even non-Arabs are participating in this art. In my class, I have 20 Japanese students learning Arabic calligraphy," Rasoul explained.

Abu Dhabi Mohammad Yaman from Turkey and Sabah Arbilli from Britain were among the 64 winners of the Eighth International Arabic Calligraphy Competition who were honoured at a ceremony in Emirates palace.

Held on Wednesday, the contest, named after prominent Syrian calligrapher Mohammad Badawi Al Dirani, examined the works of 700 participants from over 31 countries including the UAE, Algeria, Turkey, England and Indonesia.

Following speeches by Shaikh Sultan Bin Tahnoon Al Nahyan, Chairman of the Abu Dhabi Authority for Culture and Heritage (Adach) and Dr Halid Eren, Director General of the Turkey-based Research Centre for Islamic History, Art and Culture, several video presentations were shown about the history of calligraphy and some of its most notable artists.

Winners were given appreciation rewards as well as cash prizes which amounted to $126,500 (Dh464,650).

The initiative, sponsored by Adach, is meant to honour calligraphy and display its unique position in Arab art in both linguistic and artistic domains.

Check it out

  • What: The Will of the Reed Calligraphy Exhibition
  • When: June 2 - 11, 2010
  • Time: 10am -10pm
  • Where: West Wing Hall, Emirates Palace Hotel