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Unravelling Ruqa'a with Oman's famous calligrapher  Join our daily free Newsletter

MENAFN - Muscat Daily - 21/01/2014
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(MENAFN - Muscat Daily) ''Arabic calligraphy is all about how you use your pen, and make the strokes,'' says Omani artist Saleh al Shukairi, while educating you about his craft.

To explain further, he wields a sharp-edged bamboo stick that he describes as a traditional calligraphy pen, and fixes its nib on paper to effortlessly draw smooth lines that curve and bend at short intervals.

The letters when stringed together flow lucidly and are uncharacteristically legible to a lay reader of the Arabic language.

''That's the beauty of Ruqa'a,'' Shukairi says, pointing to the script. ''Apart from the Ruqa'a, there are five other Arabic calligraphy styles - Farsi, Naskh, Kufi, Deewani and Thuluth. But unlike the other styles, which are difficult to read, Ruqa'a is far neater and easy on the eye,'' he says.

Ruqaa, derived from the Arabic noun ruq'a, meaning ''a patch or piece of cloth,'' gets its name because it was initially written on small pieces of paper. Often used for writing letters, stories, or for personal correspondence, this calligraphy style, which originated some 1,000 years ago, is today among the most commonly used styles.

''The Ruqa'a barely uses vowels, involves shorter strokes and simple curves; this means that you can write it fast thus, making it easier to use in day to day writing,'' the internationally acclaimed artist says.

For Shukairi, the ease and lack of forced meticulousness of this style makes it an important component in Arabic calligraphy studies. He now hopes to advance this learning to curious students of the subject in his forthcoming workshop, Ruqa'a Script 2.0, at the MuscArt centre in Ghubra.

Split into 12 sessions, the workshop, which is set to begin next week, will explore various ways of writing and connecting Arabic letters in Ruqa'a. ''To learn any calligraphy style, it is important to make sense of the position of the letter; meaning how they appear when in isolation or in the beginning, middle or the end of a word. Each letter in this style has a different relationship with the other...how it looks when with one letter could vary when seen with another. During the class, I intend to concentrate on these details. We have 28 letters, so the sessions are definitely going to be very dense.''

But learning Ruqa'a is not tough and does not require any technical mastery, Shukairi clarifies, sharing with us a tip on how to work around it. ''Letters in the Ruqa'a are like blocks of Arabic letters that are mixed and matched, before they are put together and given final shape.''

He shows how this is done when he merges the Arabic alphabet alif with baa and daal to create the letter kaaf in Ruqa'a style. ''It is more about getting the right combinations. Once you understand the technique, and learn to write the Ruqa'a, you can almost perfect any other calligraphy style,'' he says, while drawing attention to the relationship of Ruqa'a with other intricate styles like Deewani and Farsi.

It is knowledge of this script, which he first learnt along with Naskh at the Omani Calligraphy Institute years ago, that helped him master various other Arabic calligraphy styles, and later experiment with them on canvas.

Today, among the leading visionaries of Arabic calligraphy art, Shukairi's pieces resonate his deep connect with the style. ''Arabic calligraphy is visually very beautiful, but the most under-used element in modern artwork. When I paint, I never focus on a particular calligraphy style or never concentrate on the meaning of the text. I combine the different styles to create something abstract,'' he says, adding, ''For me, the meaning doesn't lie in the words, but in the way t


Muscat Daily

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