Dubai: Young Emirati calligrapher Narjes Noureddine still recalls the framed quote her late father brought home one day when she was a just 8.
“Fear the sins that you commit in secret because the Witness of those sins is the Judge Himself!” the framed quote read. The words, which were written in calligraphy, were of Imam Ali Ibn Abu Talib, the cousin and son-in-law of Prophet Mohammad (PBUH), and the fourth caliph, who was known for his eloquence.
“I felt in love with the framed quote and I kept looking at it, praying to God that one day, I will imitate the way it was written,” Noureddine, 44, told Gulf News.
She started imitating nice handwriting of whoever she meets, until calligraphy became her profession and career.
Today, she has her own gallery. She holds workshops inside UAE and abroad including China and Morocco. She also participates in international calligraphic exhibitions, and is regularly invited to be juror in competitions.
“Arabic calligraphy is such an exquisiteness that even foreigners are attracted to it without even being able to read it …. Here is an American who was attracted to it and he learnt Arabic language to read it,” she said, referring to Everitte Barbee, a 30-year-old American who took Arabic calligraphy as his bread and butter for the past several years.
Both Noureddine and Barbee, were among three calligraphers who were invited to show their art at the residence of US Consul General, Philip Frayne, in Dubai recently. Diaa Allam from Egypt was the third artist.
“I really liked the fact that each one of them liked each other’s work,” the American diplomat told Gulf News. “Art is a way of bridging societies, and bridging cultures, and all art speak the same language of beauty, inspiration and creativity. We all speak that language. We can get people from very different political viewpoints, but they all agree that this is great to look at this calligraphy, and it doesn’t matter what is your political point view or your religion or background, but we can all enjoy and agree and enjoy the same things together because beauty goes beyond boundaries and beauty is open to everybody,” he said.
Barbee is one of the very few Americans who are involved in Arabic calligraphy.
“I always loved art. Art was my favourite subject in high school, but my parents said there is no money in art, so I studied business to make them happy, and luckily I continued with what I love,” said Barbee.
During his university studies in Scotland, he travelled to Syria as part of his courses. While there, a friend suggested he join an Arabic calligraphy courses. That was the beginning of his passion. After completion his college degree, he wanted to return to Syria, but the war stopped him, so he moved to Beirut, where he has been living.
“It has been my only profession since the university. So I have been able to support myself with my own work, and I am still learning and improving. It is a non-ending process.”
Though still at a young age, Barbee has already participated in international exhibitions in Algeria, Bahrain, Saudi Arabia, London and several American cities, including New York.
Allam also loves art since a very young age, but today his aim is to revive the interest of Arab calligraphy among the youth.
“I noticed that lovers of Arabic calligraphy don’t include young generation, so I wanted to find a way that would bring the art closer to the younger people so we revive the interest,” said 37-year-old Allam.
“The idea is to make Arabic calligraphy more acceptable by adding more modern touches and make it more interesting, by including Arabic calligraphy in daily life designs, such as clothing,” he said.
While many schools of Arabic calligraphy are based in non-Arabic countries, namely Turkey and Iran, Arabic calligraphers said they hope to see more schools teaching the art in Arab countries and spreading the message of beauty.