Newspaper article Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA)

Persian Calligrapher Renders Love, Beauty, History

Newspaper article Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA)

Persian Calligrapher Renders Love, Beauty, History

Article excerpt

Majid Roohafza says his calligraphy represents more than art. It is a way to illustrate thousands of years of Persian history, literature and culture.

"Rendition of Love," an exhibition of his work, will open Friday and run through July 2 at First Unitarian Church's Undercroft Gallery in Shadyside. A public reception for the exhibition will be held from 7-9 p.m. Friday, and Mr. Roohafza will lecture and conduct a workshop from 9:30-11 a.m. June 17 at the gallery. All events are free.

At the age of 9, Mr. Roohafza began studying calligraphy as part of his school's curriculum in Birjand, Iran. In ninth grade, when most students stop taking calligraphy lessons, he found a way to keep learning at a special school.

"My art teacher recognized that I'm doing a little better than normal, and I'm more passionate about it. He suggested, 'Why don't you come to that [school]?' And then I started that, just basically parallel with my school, which was a great and incredible journey."

Much more than just artful handwriting, Persian calligraphy is a rich blend of Persian culture, poetry and history, Mr. Roohafza said.

"It's basically an extraction of all the beauty - the written literature, the music, the dance and, of course, the poetry," he said. "For calligraphy, you ultimately have a chance to write something, and most of those are pieces and verses of famous poets."

Mr. Roohafza, a 39-year-old chemical engineer, said the discipline appealed to many aspects of his personality.

"The practice of calligraphy, the nature of it, is basically like meditation," he said. "It's very exquisite, very detail-oriented. It has to deal with geometry, with balance, with concentration."

He began with Nasta'liq, a rigid line that he said is the most common type of Persian calligraphic script. After graduating from high school, he moved to Tehran to attend the Iranian Association of Calligraphers. While in engineering school there, he met Gholam Hossein Amirkhani. The master calligrapher taught him how to write in cursive Nasta'liq, which allows more flexibility for expression.

"You're facing an endless world of imagination and creativity that you can play with and basically go and find your own way, your own style of art," he said. …

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