Thursday, April 16, 2009

A Sufi by Inclination

By Ahmed Darwish, "'Enlightened by sight'" - Al-Ahram Weekly - Cairo, Egypt
9 - 15 April 2009 / Issue No. 942

Ahmed Darwish reviews the life of one of Egypt's most distinguished calligraphers

Khan Al-Maghrabi in Zamalek has put together an exhibition of the work of calligrapher Hamed El-Uweidi to mark the anniversary of his death last year at the age of 53. The exhibition, entitled "Love and Salute", drew crowds of art enthusiasts and calligraphy buffs.

Calligraphy may seem to be a luxury, as it requires a skill and takes too much time, especially at a time when most of us spend our days hunched over a keyboard, the nostalgia for beautiful writing is hard to resist.

I first met El-Uweidi at an exhibition of his work at the Higher Council for Culture (HCC). The exhibition was arranged for the 20th anniversary of the death of the poet Amal Dunqul, and the event was sponsored entirely by Gaber Asfour, then secretary-general of the HCC and an old friend of Dunqul's. At the Khan Al-Maghrabi, I felt that time had only added to the inspiration of his message.

Looking at El-Uweidi's work, one is gripped by a persistent sense of wonder. Most of the pieces fuse old and new approaches, since El-Uweidi remains faithful to the legacy of centuries past while experimenting with new approaches with the same freshness found in such works as those of Youssef Sayeda, Kamal El-Sarrag and Naga El-Mahdawi.

Poetry is his favourite theme. "If enamoured, it's because our faces are enlightened by sight." One of his pieces offers the line with such a melodic tenderness that one can almost hear it.
What sets El-Uweidi apart from other calligraphers is that he uses the background of his compositions as a basic component of the piece. It is as if one is prepared for the opus with a chorus of whispers, or perhaps eased into the melee with a nudge on the shoulder. Then an oversized letter, his trademark, brings the message home on a dramatic note, one that pushes the delicate harmony of the inimitable composition out of this world and into another level of visual expression altogether.

In another piece, he presents a fragment of poetry: "He who says no to the face of he who said yes, and teaches man to tear apart the emptiness, he who says no doesn't die, but becomes a soul in pain immortalised." He is using a three dimensional pattern here, offering Persian script interlaced with another script called Thuluth, the word "no" blown out of proportion, offering the canvass an audio quality of immense impact.

In all El-Uweidi's compositions there is a yearning for spirituality, a supplication to a higher power, a quest for a spiritual journey that takes him to the poetry of Ahmed Shawqi and Mahmoud Darwish and the sayings of Ibn Arabi and Omar Khayyam.

El-Uweidi, who held the post of art director at Al-Ahram Centre for Political and Strategic studies, was a Sufi by inclination, a poet by temperament, and a man of encyclopaedic knowledge. A keen collector of rare Quran recitals, he would spend hours listening to the great Quranic readers Mustafa Ismail and Mohamed Siddiq El-Minshawi.

He was close to his family, and used to spend most of his time at home either reading or talking to his daughter, Aida, who was 10 when he died. He was also a frequent visitor of old mosques, his favourite being the Sultan Hassan Mosque, a great place for admiring the fine examples of Mameluke calligraphy. El-Uweidi used to take his son Salah to mosques in Islamic Cairo, usually opting for the mosques with the best examples of calligraphy.

El-Uweidi owned a large collection of art, Sufi literature, and poetry, and had plans to write the whole Quran in calligraphy, but died before he could fulfil his wish. He died on 4 March 2008 and was buried in Qus village in Upper Egypt.

Picture: El-Uweidi adding the final touches to one of his calligraphy masterpieces in Al-Ahram office [click to enlarge]. Photo: Al-Ahram

3 comments:

marcello09 said...

Beautiful! Is it possible to purchase El-Uweidi's artwork? Or has it been published in a book? Would love to see more...

Marina Montanaro said...

Salam Marcello, if you write to the Egyptian Weekly Al-Ahram (click on the title of Sufi News' article to go there) they might be able to help you.

Regards,
Marina
Managing editor

marcello09 said...

Many thanks, Marina! And thanks to you and your colleagues for putting together such a wonderful blog. I read almost every post! :-)

Thursday, April 16, 2009

A Sufi by Inclination
By Ahmed Darwish, "'Enlightened by sight'" - Al-Ahram Weekly - Cairo, Egypt
9 - 15 April 2009 / Issue No. 942

Ahmed Darwish reviews the life of one of Egypt's most distinguished calligraphers

Khan Al-Maghrabi in Zamalek has put together an exhibition of the work of calligrapher Hamed El-Uweidi to mark the anniversary of his death last year at the age of 53. The exhibition, entitled "Love and Salute", drew crowds of art enthusiasts and calligraphy buffs.

Calligraphy may seem to be a luxury, as it requires a skill and takes too much time, especially at a time when most of us spend our days hunched over a keyboard, the nostalgia for beautiful writing is hard to resist.

I first met El-Uweidi at an exhibition of his work at the Higher Council for Culture (HCC). The exhibition was arranged for the 20th anniversary of the death of the poet Amal Dunqul, and the event was sponsored entirely by Gaber Asfour, then secretary-general of the HCC and an old friend of Dunqul's. At the Khan Al-Maghrabi, I felt that time had only added to the inspiration of his message.

Looking at El-Uweidi's work, one is gripped by a persistent sense of wonder. Most of the pieces fuse old and new approaches, since El-Uweidi remains faithful to the legacy of centuries past while experimenting with new approaches with the same freshness found in such works as those of Youssef Sayeda, Kamal El-Sarrag and Naga El-Mahdawi.

Poetry is his favourite theme. "If enamoured, it's because our faces are enlightened by sight." One of his pieces offers the line with such a melodic tenderness that one can almost hear it.
What sets El-Uweidi apart from other calligraphers is that he uses the background of his compositions as a basic component of the piece. It is as if one is prepared for the opus with a chorus of whispers, or perhaps eased into the melee with a nudge on the shoulder. Then an oversized letter, his trademark, brings the message home on a dramatic note, one that pushes the delicate harmony of the inimitable composition out of this world and into another level of visual expression altogether.

In another piece, he presents a fragment of poetry: "He who says no to the face of he who said yes, and teaches man to tear apart the emptiness, he who says no doesn't die, but becomes a soul in pain immortalised." He is using a three dimensional pattern here, offering Persian script interlaced with another script called Thuluth, the word "no" blown out of proportion, offering the canvass an audio quality of immense impact.

In all El-Uweidi's compositions there is a yearning for spirituality, a supplication to a higher power, a quest for a spiritual journey that takes him to the poetry of Ahmed Shawqi and Mahmoud Darwish and the sayings of Ibn Arabi and Omar Khayyam.

El-Uweidi, who held the post of art director at Al-Ahram Centre for Political and Strategic studies, was a Sufi by inclination, a poet by temperament, and a man of encyclopaedic knowledge. A keen collector of rare Quran recitals, he would spend hours listening to the great Quranic readers Mustafa Ismail and Mohamed Siddiq El-Minshawi.

He was close to his family, and used to spend most of his time at home either reading or talking to his daughter, Aida, who was 10 when he died. He was also a frequent visitor of old mosques, his favourite being the Sultan Hassan Mosque, a great place for admiring the fine examples of Mameluke calligraphy. El-Uweidi used to take his son Salah to mosques in Islamic Cairo, usually opting for the mosques with the best examples of calligraphy.

El-Uweidi owned a large collection of art, Sufi literature, and poetry, and had plans to write the whole Quran in calligraphy, but died before he could fulfil his wish. He died on 4 March 2008 and was buried in Qus village in Upper Egypt.

Picture: El-Uweidi adding the final touches to one of his calligraphy masterpieces in Al-Ahram office [click to enlarge]. Photo: Al-Ahram

3 comments:

marcello09 said...

Beautiful! Is it possible to purchase El-Uweidi's artwork? Or has it been published in a book? Would love to see more...

Marina Montanaro said...

Salam Marcello, if you write to the Egyptian Weekly Al-Ahram (click on the title of Sufi News' article to go there) they might be able to help you.

Regards,
Marina
Managing editor

marcello09 said...

Many thanks, Marina! And thanks to you and your colleagues for putting together such a wonderful blog. I read almost every post! :-)