Exhibition | Beyond words: dancing letters in Islamic calligraphy

Beyond words: dancing letters in Islamic calligraphy was on display in the Islamic Studies Library (ISL) from February 8th to March 13th, 2020. The library closure and service disruptions, caused by Covid-19, made the exhibition inaccessible to our students, professors and visitors. In this blog post, we will provide an overview of the exhibition, featured calligraphers, the ISL calligraphy panels collection and two events organized in conjunction with the exhibition.

Arabic calligraphy is one of the most recognizable forms of Islamic Art. While originally used to preserve the Word of God (Qur’an), Arabic calligraphy also appeared in other written texts (philosophy, literature and poetry). It further developed to represent figurative depictions and decorations that were uncommon in Islamic Art. Distinct scripts and styles like Kufic, Naskh, Raqaa, Diwani, Thuluth or Nastaliq flourished across the Muslim world often unified by specific common principles. Major elements of the Arabic script such as fluid lines and ornamentation offer contemporary calligraphers the flexibility to create a free-form twist on classic techniques, repositioning calligraphy for today’s context.

This exhibition brought together a new wave of calligraphy artists from various corners of the world united by the art of writing and the desire to break through barriers, tell a story and reach other cultures.

Featured Calligraphers

Massoudy chooses a word from the chosen quote and recreates it in much larger dimensions, with its straight lines and its curves and a new geometrical structure. Then, he writes the whole sentence underneath or on the side.

eL Seed is a street artist who uses Arabic calligraphy and a distinctive style, he calls Calligrafitti to spread messages of peace, unity and to underline the commonalities of human existence.

He is the great master of Calligraphy, praiser of the divine word. All the routes of the Mediterranean and the Middle East meet in the qalam of Ghani Alani, without contrast. His writing is not of dualities, but of harmony.

The master calligrapher, who has made the ancient Arabic tradition evolve from its religious roots, is creating deeply intellectual work that reflects his interest in modern poetry and literature, alongside Christian and Sufi philosophy. 

Mahdaoui’s work inspired by Arabic calligraphy is remarkably innovative as the aesthetic dimension of letters brings forth a sense of the poetic, highly rhythmic, arresting us with its rich abstracts compositions.

Karaduman considers calligraphy art as a drawing science in aesthetical terms and conducts research and examinations in this field. He completed approximately 50 Holy Korans, verses and hilye-i sharifs by renovating, revising and imitating artworks of which some belong to calligraphy masters.

Haji Noor Deen brings an immense learning in traditional thought and Islamic art to a modern audience, juxtaposing them in a new calligraphic style all his own, both Eastern and Western.

Zenderoudi has a superb style arising from juxtaposition and simultaneous use of freedom of Western modern art and the power of decorative and visual elements of the Oriental and Iranian traditions.

ISL Calligraphy Collection

A wealth of Arabic/Islamic calligraphy titles were on display and were available for browsing. Now, these titles can be can be found via the McGill library catalog.  In addition to the circulating collection, the McGill Islamic Studies Library has a permanent digital exhibit Arabic/Islamic Calligraphy displaying a selection of dry black and white calligraphy and colorful illuminated pieces dating from the 10th to the 19th century.

Calligraphy Events

The ISL hosted two events following the launch of Beyond words: dancing letters in Islamic calligraphy exhibit.

Calligraphy workshop with Mehdi Sharifi

Mehdi Sharifi is a trained calligrapher who masters a number of calligraphic methods. In January 2008, he was awarded the Best Momtaz Degree from the Iranian Calligraphers Association. In the workshop, he exhibited some of his artistic works, and demonstrated different methods for writing Nastaliq. The workshop was well attended. Participants had the chance to see firsthand various calligraphy tools and papers used in Calligraphy art. Almost everyone left with a souvenir from the calligrapher ( individual name written in calligraphic style).

ISL Calligraphy workshop | Octagon Room

A presentation by Dr. Hela Zahar, entitled Modulations du calligraffiti arabe & tensions arabo-occidentales

Dr. Hela Zahar is the director of the Lavallois Centre for Higher Education in Digital Arts and Creative Economics. Multidisciplinary, Zahar is a practitioner in calligraphy and digital arts, a teacher and researcher in urban and digital culture. Recipient of the INRS “Best Doctoral Thesis” Award (2018) and the “Cust of the Jury” Award – 5th Gala of Excellence, Maghreb Congress in Quebec (CMQ): The Way of Success (2017).

This fascinating and original talk was based on Dr Zahar’s PhD thesis defended in 2018 at the Institut National de la Recherche Scientifique (Université du Québec, Montréal). Her thesis analyzed “the political implications (…) of Arabic calligraffiti, a form of urban art that is inspired both by graffiti and Arabic calligraphy” in both Arab and Western cities. After conducting a digital and physical ethnography of calligraffiti that developed in Montreal, Paris, and some Tunisian cities between 2008 and 2017, Zahar examined the “various conflicts and power relations, such as Arab-Western tensions in the visual culture of Western cities, tensions around the religious role of Islamic calligraphy in Arab cities, tensions around urban art in all cities, and around the various digital spaces where these works are disseminated.”

The Beyond words: dancing letters in Islamic calligraphy exhibition was curated by Anaïs Salamon (Head Librarian, ISL) and Senior Library Assistants, Ghazaleh Ghanavizchian and Samah Kasha.

Celebrating the Islamic Studies Library and Digital Initiatives decade-long Collaboration

Ten years ago, the first items from the Islamic Studies Library (ISL) collection located in Rare Books and Special Collections (RBSC) were digitized. Over the years, the Islamic Studies Library and Digital Initiatives (DI) have developed a strong link, and the history of this decade-long collaboration is worth sharing with our community. This continuous teamwork resulted in launching multiple digital exhibitions, an Internet Archive ISL Collection and various research projects.

Digital Exhibitions and Collections

The first collaboration, Beautiful calligraphy ensures entrance to Paradise, started with a physical display in the Islamic Studies Library from November 1st, 2010 to March 31st 2011. The Calligraphy panels came from McGill University’s Rare Books and Special Collections and the Islamic Studies Library holdings located in RBSC. The physical exhibition included sixteen items representing various styles of Arabic calligraphy: from dry black and white calligraphy of the 10th century to colorful illuminated pieces of the 19th century, all of which recounted a brief history of Arabic/Islamic calligraphy. The Digital Exhibit: http://digital.library.mcgill.ca/islamic_calligraphy/index.php.

The second collaboration, The Shahnameh by Ferdowsi, also started as a physical display in the Islamic Studies Library, from April 1st to October 31st, 2011. Here again, the physical exhibition included sixteen Shahnameh folios coming from McGill University’s Rare Books and Special Collections and the Islamic Studies Library holdings located in RBSC.  Shahnameh by Ferdowsi offered the visitor an opportunity to experience some of the heroes and villains of this remarkable epic poem and to gather a diverse overview of this celebrated text as well as the magnificence of Persian painting. The Digital Exhibit: http://digital.library.mcgill.ca/shahnameh/index.php.

The third collaboration, Arabic Lithographed Books, drew upon selections from Arabic lithographed books. The collection was on display in the Islamic Studies Library between February 1st and September 30th 2014, and later formed the basis for the Islamic Lithographs digital collection. Since then, the digitization of Islamic lithographs at McGill has become a work in progress, and the resulting digital collection a continually updated resource. This Collection includes many examples of lithographed books in Arabic, Persian, Ottoman Turkish, and Urdu, dated from the eighteenth century until the mid-twentieth century showcasing different calligraphic styles, graphic designs, and publishing houses from the Muslim world and Europe. Items from the Islamic Lithographs digital collection were the first to be uploaded to the Islamic Studies Library Internet Archives collection. The Digital Exhibit: http://digital.library.mcgill.ca/islamic_lithographs/.

Exhibits photo credit: Klaus Fiedler

INTERNET ARCHIVE

Since 2014, an increasing number of digitized materials from the ISL’s various collections have become accessible on Internet Archive, a non-profit library of millions of free books, movies, software, music, and more. Digital Initiatives uploads digitized materials twice a year. This unique collaboration began with 395 items and today includes digital copies of well over 1279 Arabic, Persian, Ottoman Turkish and Urdu manuscripts, lithographs and rare books from the ISL collection. The materials can be viewed and browsed using the Internet Archive book reader, or downloaded in PDF format. The RSS feed feature of the Internet Archive website offers the opportunity to stay informed of new additions to our collection. Internet Archives Islamic Studies Collection : https://archive.org/details/mcgilluniversityislamicstudies

On demand digitization

Among the first to use this service were two faculty members from the Institute of Islamic studies; Professors F. Jamil Ragep and Robert Wisnovsky selected around 30 manuscripts from the ISL collection and the Osler Library of the History of Medicine collection to be digitized for a joint research project. (Rational Science in Islamic (RASI) project: https://islamsci.mcgill.ca/RASI/). In general, items for personal or scholarly use can be submitted for approval to be digitized by consulting McGill University’s on demand digitization service. Digitized items become available online in full in accordance with Canadian Copyright Law.

Behind the scenes: Digitization at the Library (Video)

A short video created in December 2019 highlights the meticulous work that takes place at Digitization and Digital Initiatives. The Library’s digitization service captures and provides access to millions of pages and objects from the vast and varied collections of McGill Libraries. This service is now even more important and essential during this unprecedented period of remote instruction and library online services.

Special Thanks

Blog post editors: Anaïs Salamon, Head Librarian, Dr. Charles Fletcher, Head Library Clerk, and Greg Houston, Digital Initiatives

The Afternoon Map

The Afternoon Map is a cartography blog brought to you by Ottoman History Podcast

“We firmly believe that every book needs more maps, and would be delighted if these maps could be useful toward that end”

The Afternoon Map

The blog is dedicated to presenting quality Ottoman/Turkish/Middle Eastern/Balkan maps with a maximum pixel-to-word ratio. A range of original, visually appealing and intellectually engaging maps harvested from archives and libraries around the world.

The afternoon Map will appeal to history buffs, travelers and map enthusiasts. Each map is provided with some background and analysis when available. Historians and other researchers will find these maps useful for their work.

“The Afternoon Map is a member of MENAlab, a constellation of independent internet destinations focused on the history, society, and culture of the Middle East and North Africa”

The Afternoon Map

The blog uses content generated by scholars and researchers from a variety of disciplines. The afternoon Map is open access and free from advertisement.

MAP LIST

Under Afternoon Map’s Comprehensive Map List, one can find the following:

Historical Maps

Blog posts in this section varies in topics (geographical, touristic, ethnic, etc.), in dates (as old as 1874) and in length (from one map to 14 maps)

Istanbul Tourist Maps

Home Made Maps

In this section, things get really interesting! Treasure map, food maps, Folk song map, etc.

Ottoman Food Map

Non Maps

 Topics in this section, not necessary related to maps, but it is worthwhile exploring!

Ottoman Hats

Articles

A list of published articles authored and/or co-authored by Nick Danforth on various media platforms and academic journals. There is a couple of articles that are marked unpublished.

PODCAST

Provide a link to Ottoman History Podcast, a podcast about the Ottoman Empire, the modern Middle East, and the Islamic world.

RANDOM

In this section, blog posts are randomly displayed. This may appeal to those who like the surprise factor.

Anwar El-Sadat Digital Archive

Anwar El-Sadat Digital Archive is a collaborative effort between The International School of Information Science (ISIS) and the Special Projects Department at Bibliotheca Alexandrina.

The project compiles all the material pertaining to the late President Anwar El-Sadat in a digital archive documenting an important epoch in the discourse of Egyptian history.

The Archive provides information on the life of late President Mohamed Anwar El-Sadat to historians, politicians, and researchers who are interested in analyzing and studying one of the most important transitional periods in Egyptian history.

The Archive is divided into three main areas and each area is further subdivided

  • El-Sadat’s Life
  • El-Sadat’s Archive
  • Journalistic Perspective

El-SADAT’S LIFE

In this section, one can explore facts and archival materials related to the early life of El-Sadat, his political life, after 23 July Revolution, his presidency, donated collections and his famous quotes. An internal link is made available to El-Sadat’s Museum that is housed in Bibliotheca Alexandrina.

In addition to the above, El-Sadat’s life includes books and articles that he wrote during the revolution and after he became a president.

El-SADAT’S ARCHIVE

This section is divided into six collections:

The speech collection contains 1116 letters, words and text statements by President Mohamed Anwar El-Sadat.

The photo collection and for the first time, this number of rare El-Sadat related are displayed on the Internet, close to 20,000 photos

The video collection contains more than 317 videos, in which President El-Sadat appears, ranging from talk shows, news reports and documentaries.

The documents collection includes more than 970 Egyptian and American documents, some of which are rare documents in addition to documents in the President’s handwriting.

The audio collection is compilation of audios by President El-Sadat. This collection contains 44 audio tracks.

The press collection contains 7814 press items, ranging from news, reportage and articles that goes back to the period of the late President El-Sadat

JOURNALISTIC PERSPECTIVE

Televised interviews, this section is devoted to all television interviews and letters available of President Mohamed Anwar El-Sadat in an attempt to highlight how he dealt with the Arab and Western media and how he approached and handled its challenges.

The project team has collected most of the book covers that talked about the era of President Anwar El-Sadat as an assistant to the researcher to reach a better understanding of El- Sadat’s story in both its human and political aspects.

Anwar El-Sadat Digital Archive materials were compiled from different sources, such as news agencies, museums, various other institutions, and a collection graciously granted by the late President’s family. The database was published on the Internet with tools and features that facilitate easy navigation through the website. It is important to note that the archive is available only in Arabic.

The digital archive also enables users and researchers to perform comprehensive searches among the different sections and categories of data.

The Palestine Poster Project Archives

The Palestine Poster Project Archives (PPPA) was created by Dan Walsh for a master thesis project at Georgetown University, stating that: “It is a work-in-progress.”

The Palestine poster genre dates back to around 1900 and, incredibly, more Palestine posters are designed, printed and distributed today than ever before. Unlike most of the political art genres of the twentieth century such as those of revolutionary Cuba and the former Soviet Union, which have either died off, been abandoned, or become mere artifacts, the Palestine poster genre continues to evolve. Moreover, the emergence of the Internet has exponentially expanded the genre’s network of creative contributors and amplified the public conversation about contemporary Palestine.

Dan Walsh – Silver Spring, MD April 2009

A unique historical repository of primary data on modern Palestine. Audiences who are interested in this rich, yet under-valued module of Palestinian cultural heritage, can have a better understanding of people who were engaged in the contemporary history of Palestine and recorded it in their graphic art.

According to PPPA a “Palestine poster” is defined in a five-part definition as any poster:

1) With the word “Palestine” in it, in any language, from any source or time period.

2) Created or published by any artist or agency claiming Palestinian nationality or Palestinian participation

3) Published in the geographical territory of historic Palestine, at any point in history, including

4) Published by any source which relates directly to the social, cultural, political, military, economic or iconographic history of Palestine or Palestinian nationalism contemporary Israel

5) Related to Zionism or anti-Zionism in any language, from any source, published after August 31, 1897

Site visitors can browse the poster collection by: Artists (2,640), Posters (13,774), Wellsprings, Special Collections (920), Iconography, Original Copies, Portfolios, Duplicates/Exchanges, Year of Publication, Country of publication, and Nationality/Artists

The Liberation Graphics Collection of Palestine Posters, which was Nominated to UNESCO’s Memory of the World Program 2016-2017, is a subset of the more than 11,500 posters featured at the Palestine Poster Project Archives web site.

The PPPA is an educational site and does not engage in any commercial or merchandising activities. Posters’ duplicates are frequently traded with private individuals as well as other archives and libraries. Furthermore, The PPPA has a strict policy concerning poster’s removal, as it will never remove a poster from its site. There is a dedicated link on the website for poster submission. Last but not least, the FAQ provides a deep insight into the core objectives of the archive, as it comprehensively answers a wide range of questions, it is worthwhile checking.

The Calligrapher الخطاط

The Calligrapher platform is the first online platform to teach Arabic calligraphy and decoration online, by a handful of professional calligraphers who have been carefully selected to share their experiences through training courses. It is one of the winning initiatives for the year of Arabic Calligraphy 2020, as the platform has become open to all with free courses and lessons.

The Calligrapher Platform will provide those interested in learning Arabic calligraphy and Islamic decoration an opportunity to learn the basics of Arabic calligraphy, its arts and methods via training courses, projects and professional workshops.

There are many different calligraphic styles used for writing the Arabic script. The platform will give the trainees the option to choose the calligraphic style, Thuluth, Naskh, Reqa,  Diwani, Kufic and Maghrebi, they wish to learn and the calligrapher they prefer to be the instructor. During the training period, the trainees will be provided with applications and exercises through which they will gain the artistic skills they seek.

Arabic Calligraphy Courses

Arabic Calligraphy Styles

Calligraphy Instructors

 

The platform offers various training courses, including professional courses in

the types of Arabic calligraphy, explanation of the alphabets and how to combine them, writing the words and expressions, improving handwriting, training in making calligraphic paintings and artwork in Arabic   calligraphy, letter formations, gilding, Islamic decoration, drawing and coloring, the art of paper marbling and Ebru (needle art). The platform will also give the trainee the opportunity to develop Arabic computer fonts by learning designs and programming fonts.

 

 

The Calligrapher الخطاط platform aims

  • to be the first electronic platform to teach Arabic calligraphy.
  • to provide specialized and professional training courses.
  • to teach Arabic calligraphy in an easy and more effective way.
  • to follow up and communicate with professional calligraphers.
  • to improve the level of those wishing to learn Arabic calligraphy.
  • to preserve the heritage of Arabic calligraphy and disseminating it internationally.

All what is required is a name, a password and an email account to start your journey with the Calligrapher platform, create an account. There is no specific time for membership to expire and you can follow and watch the sessions with unlimited number. While beginner level courses that provide the basics are completely free, advanced level courses are offered for a fee. It is important to note that the platform is uni lingual, Arabic only.

The platform also welcomes professional calligraphers from around the world to join as instructors, for more details click here.

Historians of the Ottoman Empire

The Historians of the Ottoman Empire project was initiated in the Fall of 2003 as a major bio-bibliographical reference book on Ottoman historians. This project is made possible by a generous grant from the Packard Humanities Institute, employing an assistant professor at Indiana University and two graduate students at the University of Chicago.

The database offers significantly more detailed information about Ottoman historians authors than what is normally found in typical encyclopaedia articles. Each author-entry is accompanied with a list of manuscripts (along with their locations). Unpublished manuscripts will be given particular attention, and a short summary or a table of contents will be provided. It is expected, the database will contain the most complete and up-to-date and accurate list of manuscripts available anywhere.

Historians of the Ottoman Empire covers different places, different times of the Ottoman Empire;  it includes works written in Cairo after 1517, in Athens up to 1830, and in Istanbul until 1923.

While the scope of this project is limited to historians, the definition of historian is used in its broader sense to include works such as biographical material, geographies, military narratives (gazavatnames,fethnames) etc. On the other hand, works written with an intention to be fully a piece of literature are excluded.

An “Ottoman” means “having been an Ottoman subject at least for a part of one’s life”. In other words, individuals having lived in the Ottoman Empire and having written narrative works that consciously include a significant “historical” content.

The database provides four browsing options; by historian, by work, by author and by date. Additionally, articles are written only in English and Turkish, because the database is bilingually designed.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Historians of the Ottoman Empire project is intended to be a unique reference work to scholars and students, as well as for non-specialists interested in the histories and cultures of these regions.

Biblioteca Nacional de España : Biblioteca Digital Hispánica

The Hispanic Digital Library is the digital library of the Biblioteca Nacional de España. It provides access free of charge to thousands of digitized documents, including books printed from the 15th to the 20th century, manuscripts, drawings, engravings, pamphlets, posters, photographs, maps, atlases, music scores, historic newspapers and magazines and audio recordings.

When it was launched in January 2008, the HDL had around 10,000 works. Today it comprises more than 222,000 titles (as of January of 2020) works on all topics in all documentary forms, freely accessible from anywhere in the world.

The Hispanic Digital Library has 212 digitized Arabic documents that are worthwhile exploring, divided into the following material type:

  • 134 manuscripts
  • 75 books
  • 2 cartographic material
  • 1 hand-written music

Corán [Manuscrito], Date: entre 1101 y 1200? Subject: Manuscritos iluminados

There are 9 drawings on lacquered hard cardboard dated between [1800-1899] classified by language: Irani, in addition to 4 documents in Persa Antiguo and Persa Moderno.

 

 

 

 

 

Documents are organized according to three basic access methods, in addition to the traditional simple and advanced searches:

  • Access by topic, in keeping with the Universal Decimal Classification structure
  • By type of material
  • Featured collections, due to their relevance, interest, attraction or importance

The website is available in Spanish, English and French, in addition to other languages spoken in Spain.

 

Islamic Medical Manuscripts at the National Library of Medicine

Islamic Medical Manuscripts is a project of the U.S. National Library of Medicine, the world’s largest library of the health sciences.

“The National Library of Medicine has one of the three greatest collections of Islamic medical manuscripts in the world and some of them are the only ones in existence,” says Dr. Emilie Savage-Smith.

The text for this website was written by Dr. Savage-Smith, Senior Research Associate, The Oriental Institute, University of Oxford, Pusey Lane, Oxford OX1 2LE, England. As one of the leading historians of medieval Islamic medicine, Dr. Savage-Smith has written extensively about the history of anatomy, surgery, dissection, pharmacy and ophthalmology. an American scholar from Oxford University and one of the world’s foremost authorities on Islamic medicine.

This site, with its biographies, colorful images, and extensive historical accounts of medieval medicine and science, provides students and advanced scholars an opportunity to learn about Islamic medicine and science during the Middle Ages and the important role it played in the history of Europe.

Over 300 or so Persian and Arabic manuscripts are available in the National Library of Medicine. Most of these manuscripts deal with medieval medicine and science and were written for learned physicians and scientists. Some of the manuscripts are richly illuminated and illustrated.

Where to start?

  • Medieval Islam: A brief introduction to the history of Islamic medicine and and its role in European history choose
  • Catalogue: To browse entries for individual manuscripts and their illustrations

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

  • Bio-Bibliographies: To find biographies of important Islamic physicians, surgeons, and scholars, as well as suggestions for further research

  • GlossaryTo find out the meaning of historical terms relating to medieval medicine and book making

  • Abbreviations.: To find complete bibliographical information about books and articles referred to in the entries

The Islamic achievements in this area, as well as in anatomy and surgery, led European teachers and practitioners to translate the hundreds of Arabic and Persian medical tracts into Latin and then into French, Italian, and English. In a very real sense, the European tradition of medical science and practice, which has now spread world-wide, owes a great debt to Avicenna, al-Nafis, Rhazis, Abulcasis and other Islamic practitioners and scholars.

EurekAlert! Science News Releases

 

 

Al Jazeera Arabic Learning

Al Jazeera Arabic Learning is a free open educational site, launched in 2013, affiliated with the Al Jazeera Media Institute.  The site represents Al Jazeera Network’s vision in promoting communication between people and cultures. This educational site aims to teach and spread the Arabic language as a bridge for human communication and cultural understanding.

The site contains various educational materials divided into two main themes Language of the Media and General Language. These materials are available in three language levels (beginner, intermediate, advanced) to develop the basic language skills of learners (speaking, listening, reading, writing).

Users can choose their preferred language interface as it is available in English, French and Turkish.

To maximize the learning experience from this site, first time users should take the  Arabic Level Test (available on the site). The test result will guide the user in choosing the appropriate educational materials that matches his/her language level.

The site provides distinguished interactive electronic services to its visitors, including:

  • A dictionary service to search for the meanings of words and phrases

  • An Arabic vocalization service

  • Question and answer service that allows the user to send questions and receive answers.

  • Blogging service that allows teachers to spread their thoughts and opinions related to the Arabic language

  • Morphological analysis service to know the origins of words and their morphological structures.
  • Formation service for text formation and tuning.

What do Arabic Learners think of Al Jazeera Arabic Learning site?

Watch this video .