Kashmiri girls revived the art of calligraphy

Taken by the stillness dictated by the situation and the pandemic, a number of the girls have started to revive the forgotten art of calligraphy and some of them were so encouraged by the response that they are on the verge of being. to convert their passion into a profession using social media as a platform, reports Urvat il Wuska

Safura with its creation on the shores of Dal Lake in Srinagar. Image: Special arrangement

Everything is a setback. During the lockdown imposed by Covid19, when people were confined to their homes, some young people turned to various creative arts. It was aimed precisely at releasing stress. It did, however, help some of them rediscover abilities they thought they didn’t have.

A group of young girls began to write calligraphy. When they put their works on various social media platforms, they got instant recognition. Encouraged, some of them started their small businesses by selling their works of art. This phenomenon led to the literal renaissance of the art of calligraphy at a time when writing technology and software had pushed art into oblivion.

An entrepreneur stands up

Munaza, 23, who lives in the old town of Srinagar, is one of those “containment” artists. She is pursuing a master’s degree in journalism. Self-taught modern Arabic, Persian and English calligrapher, she makes frames and writes beautifully on a variety of frames including T-shirts, mugs, walnut wood plates and canvases. She is the second alcohol ink artist in Kashmir. These alcohol-based inks are highly pigmented inks that require isopropyl alcohol (IPA) for dilution. Its use requires a particular profession.

“I use either Ranger Adirondack alcohol ink, Jacquard Pinata inks, or Copic marker refill,” Munaza said. “These are dyes based on isopropyl alcohol or denatured alcohol. They exist in several colors. There are of course other brands that are available in art stores and online.

Munaza has been practicing calligraphy for years, but didn’t convert it into a small business until 2020, she said.

When customers smile in front of the artwork, Munaza said it was a well-paid price. Aside from the costs, prayers and blessings are an added incentive.

“Calligraphy has rules, definitions and a link with spirituality because of the Arabic language. It’s not just about designing alone, it’s about every stroke in a letter and if you need your strokes to be right then you need to have the right tool that’s yours. Qalam (the pen), ”she said.

Munaza’s journey from artist to entrepreneur has been a roller coaster ride. She hadn’t expected the response she was getting from people, especially women. “I was inundated with orders just after a month of starting up and it was overwhelming for me,” Munaza said.

Not new

In Kashmir, calligraphy is not a new concept in art writing. Calligraphy, according to a publication by the Archaeological Survey of India, was introduced to Kashmir by the holy scholar Sharif-ud-Din Bulbul in the 14th century. However, it was during the Mughal era that the art of calligraphy flourished. The era produced many artists like Muhamad Husain who served at Akbar’s court known as the Zarin Kalam (golden feather) and Muhammad Murad popularly known as Shirin kalam (soft pen). Ali Chaman was another famous calligrapher of the Mughal period.

Some stories suggest that Kashmiri calligraphers invented an indelible, unremovable ink during the Mughal period. Yaqub Muhammad, the son of the famous calligrapher Murad Kashmiri who excelled in Kufi style, even compiled a book on calligraphy.

In Kashmir, art has its traditional meaning also as the Ayahs of the Koran can be seen written on the walls of shrines and mosques. Some of the devotees even get the beautifully written texts as wall hangings as a good omen.

Not alone

Munaza is not the only one to discover himself as a calligrapher. There is Farah Deeba from Insafabad, Bandipora, who has just graduated from college as a contract lecturer. She used to copy the Koran manuscript as a child. So, after completing her studies, she was admitted to online courses in kufic calligraphy, then took another online course, Tuhlut calligraphy from the Mumbai based calligraphy institute, Qalamaurkagaz and BCI (Bangladesh Calligraphy Institute).

Farah is at work. Image: Special arrangement

“Whenever I was doing Quranic calligraphy Ayah in, my parents always appreciated me, ”said Farah. “They motivated me so much for it that I spent more and more time there. Their motivation made me realize that I can be a good calligrapher.

Calligraphy has been her passion, but she said if she had the chance to make a profession out of this art, she would gladly do so. Calligraphy is as good a stress reducer as meditation perhaps. “Being at home wasn’t easy, but I took advantage of the lockdown because I had plenty of time to practice calligraphy,” she said.

What she regrets, however, is the lack of necessary infrastructure. “We have no place or gallery to exhibit our work. There is no government institution here where calligraphy is taught. So I took a course in kufic calligraphy. But only that will not help. He needs an initiative from the government itself, ”said Farah.

During the lockdown, Farah posted artwork on social media sites and got a good response. Since then she has received orders from people either to draw a Koranic Ayah or their name.

Farah enjoys the feeling that her art frames are part of people’s everyday lives, hanging on their walls. She hopes to one day open an academy to teach calligraphy. She, however, insists that calligraphers must have a good teacher.

A spiritual connection

In Srinagar, Azha Qureshi, a civil engineering student, also started calligraphy as a hobby. Months later, she wants to make it her profession because she believes it has helped her become more spiritual and reduce her stress. Azha has always been praised for her writing skills in school. In confinement, she decided to write the Koranic ayah., knowing that Kashmir is the land of art and craftsmen.

Azha in her workstation with her works of art. Image: Special arrangement

“I like to write verses from the Quran because it makes me happy and I sleep peacefully after that,” Azha said. “My journey in this area has just started and I want it to be endless.”

Admitting that she can win with this god-gifted art using social media, Azha suggests that the government should organize exhibitions so that they can showcase their talent on a large platform.

Take it to the next level

Safura Hameed, 23, from Badamwari Srinagar is Kashmir’s first 3D calligrapher. Interested in creative art for a long time, she started calligraphy in 2018, when she was a student of electronics and communication. She always ran out of time as she is part of the network security engineering of a Bangaluru company but when the containment forced her to a standstill, the self-taught artist put effort and time into the calligraphy.

“I wouldn’t call myself a calligrapher yet. The actual meaning of a calligrapher is much more complex in terms of understanding the terminology behind the art, ”Safura said. “I am a budding calligrapher.

Safura believes that calligraphy is a stress reliever that gives her peace of mind and calms the chaos within. “It gives me a feeling of satisfaction – of patience and peace. It helps me become a better person.

A work by Munazah, who hides behind his creation while holding it. Image: Special arrangement

Starting with traditional calligraphy, Safura then moved on to 3D calligraphy. During a confinement where she took a good hold on her qalam and material, she began to receive a lot of orders. “There is not a lot of room for this art in Kashmir society”, regrets Safura. “There are only a few people who understand the art and the artist’s expression.

Artistic blindness is a crisis. Sharing her own experience, Safura said that when people don’t understand the time, concept and effort behind a piece of art, she ends up buying cheap replicas.

From ball to pen

Sumyla Yaqoob is originally from Tangmarg and, unlike her parents, was interested in art from her childhood. However, she would find ways to pursue her hobby.

During the lockdown, Sumyla rekindled her full-time interest and began sketching and posting on Instagram. The response made her family appreciate their daughter’s ability.

“I started writing with bold pens and I wasn’t sure if I could do it or not because it was my first attempt,” Sumyla said. “Later I started to use qalam and continued to do calligraphy with a good response from almost everyone.

Sumyla Yaqoob with her works in her residence. Photo: Special arrangement

The expert speaks

Mohammad Ashraf Tak, editor-in-chief at the Academy of Arts, Culture and Languages ​​of Jammu and Kashmir, said it takes years to become a calligrapher.

“When Amir-e-Kabir visited Kashmir, he was accompanied by some calligraphers. Most of them settled here and played an important role in promoting this art which led to the establishment of the Kashmir School of Calligraphy, ”Tak said. The Academy ran a school of calligraphy for decades, but belatedly it was not getting the required number of applicants.

Iqbal Ahmad, former curator at SPS Museum Srinagar, art is in decline with the advent of technology, but new age artists are trying to revive it.

“It is because of this popularity of the art of calligraphy in Kashmir that Kashmir has a rich repository of manuscripts and epigraphs in various styles of calligraphy,” said Ahmad. “During modern ages, the Urdu press, writers of Urdu, Persian and Arabic books have played a vital role in promoting calligraphy skills.”

Ahmad said the Academy has been running calligraphy learning classes for several years. He regretted that there was no innovation. “Rajasthan is known for Matka ice cream and the Matka is colored with the traditional designs. It shows how they infused their culture with ice cream, it is not the same with the Kashmiris, ”Ahmad said. “We had pots that we ate in Wazwan about ten to twenty years ago, but now we resort to disposable plates to the detriment of our culture.

“In the age of digitization and technology, this unprotected epigraphic heritage must be maintained and conserved properly so that these sources of our economic, cultural and literary history are preserved for generations to come,” suggests

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