Illuminating the Ancient Art of Decorative Calligraphy

Article excerpt

BYLINE: Veronica Wilkinson

The Islam Expo SA 2009 will showcase the applied art of respected local and international Islamic artists who excel in the intricacy of decorative tradition and calligraphy.

The fine craftsmanship that has embellished surfaces and influenced architecture around the world for many centuries can be seen at the Cape Town International Convention Centre from Thursday to Sunday between 10am and 9pm.

Among the attractions, ancient religious manuscripts, artefacts and secular currency will be displayed along with exhibits from Iziko museums about the slave trade and the history and development of the Timbuktu manuscripts.

The initiator of the Foundation of Islamic art in South Af-rica, Achmat Soni, has the painted inscriptions of over 40 mosques in and around South Africa to his credit. He will be working on a collaborative painting with his son, Shaheen, and daughter-in-law Tasneem from Thursday to create a work that will be auctioned for charity on Sunday.

I visited their studio in Crawford and was shown the design for the elegant work, which has a strong contemporary influence, echoing the style of Shaheen Soni, who is passionate about art playing a role in conveying meaning to the viewer.

He feels that a painting should stir an emotional response using a good concept with simplicity of design. He and his wife run a gallery, which doubles as a teaching studio on Tuesdays, and also carries a stock of artist's supplies. They hold four painting courses a year, which are held on consecutive Saturday mornings and last for five weeks.

Tasneem tells me that when she met Shaheen, he told her that his dad, Achmat, was a painter, but she thought that meant a house painter because she had no knowledge of the rich tradition of Islamic art.

These days, however, she too wields a brush, producing fine detail of exquisite colour and tonal composition. …