25 September, 2010

Revival of a forgotten art in Islamabad


Edited news version printed in Pakistan Observer on Sept. 24, 2010.

Islamabad: A three-day calligraphy workshop was sponsored by Pakistan National Council of the Arts (PNCA) for the art learners (from Sept. 21-23, 2010), which has truly injected a new life to the forgotten art of calligraphy among Pakistanis. The rare workshop was arranged by the efforts of Director General PNCA, Mr. Tauqeer Nasir in order to revive the interest of youth in Islamic art of calligraphy.

Upon entering the huge room of the workshop, few students were found scattered around the room, busy with their painting brushes and papers. At the front of the room, a man was sitting with a desk full of calligraphic scriptures and few youngsters gathered around him asking different questions. This man is Mohammad Elahi Bukhsh Muttee, an eminent calligrapher who remained quite busy teaching some 40 students about the skill of writing original form of calligraphy to the students.

Mohammad Elahi Bukhsh Muttee hails from Haripur and he has been in this field for more than 4 decades. He has also been bestowed upon with few national and International awards including the Best Khatati Award by National Art Gallery of Pakistan.

Describing his special interest in Islamic calligraphy, Mr. Muttee said that he had developed a liking for the calligraphic art since childhood and was initially inspired by the magnificent Turkish calligraphic art work. He praised the works of calligraphers such as Ustaad Sami, Rasheed Butt and Nafees Raqam. He also spoke of the special interest among the youth in learning calligraphy and said that “our youth is very passionate hence it is important to guide them on the right path.”


Mr. Muttee regretted that the government was not doing enough to promote the dying art the Islamic art of calligraphy. But at the same time he lauded the initiative taken by PNAC to promote the art of calligraphy.

It may be recalled that the several Arab countries have set up universities of calligraphic art but unfortunately there is not any such an institution in Pakistan financed by government.

This calligraphy workshop was organized with a key focus on different modes and techniques of calligraphy and the participants also learned about the history and development of Islamic Arts during the workshop, said organizers from PNCA.

Nusratji, a seasoned painter and a Fine Arts teacher, who has also worked in collaboration with Gulgee, stressed upon the teaching of history and original form of art and also commented “I think that calligraphy has become more of a decorative art nowadays and has lost its original meaning but this workshop is a good sign that the basics of the drawing and art is being promoted in our country at some level.”

A certificate-distribution ceremony was also held towards the end of the concluding day of the calligraphy workshop. While addressing the ceremony, Mr. Tauqeer Nasir, DG PNCA said, “It is our responsibility to promote a positive image of Pakistan in the world through our art and culture.” He believed that institutions like PNCA should promote art and artists of Pakistan and pledged to continue such efforts in the field of visual, performing art and music.

Arif Khan, a professional artist said, “I have been associated with the world of art since 20 years and it is my love for art that has brought me here today.’

It should also be mentioned here that most of the attendants were women including students, painters and even a house wife but there were very few male participants at the workshop. Sehrish, a student of Fatima Jinnah Women University said, ‘I am inspired by my teacher Sir Rashid Butt and I am very hopeful that this art will continue to flourish in Pakistan.’

This calligraphy workshop has infused a new hope among the calligraphy lovers that there shall be more of workshops and exhibitions of the art of calligraphy in Pakistan.

-Photos and write-up by Sana Jamal