Culture by design

April 11, 2018

The Unveiling the Middle East & North Africa Week continued last Friday with Calligraphy Meets Ceramics & Henna, where students learned about the history of the calligraphy and ceramics and tried their hands at the centuries-old art.


Saeed Alzahrani detailed the history of Arabic calligraphy, which extends as far back as the ancient Mesopotamians. The art is especially notable in depictions of the Arabic Qur’an, the holy book of Islam.


Alzahrani, who originally hails from Saudi Arabia, is a Ph.D. student at the Judith Herb College of Education at UT and teaches Arabic in the language department.


“I liked calligraphy ever since I was a kid, so I tried to learn how to do it,” Alzahrani said. “Then when I became an Arabic teacher, I began teaching it to others and enjoyed it even more.”


After the history lesson, Alzahrani helped students write the Arabic alphabet in calligraphic style. The event continued with a detailed history of ceramics, led by Arabics professor Nada Salem.


Salem emphasized the presence of ceramics throughout history from the earliest of civilizations. It was common practice to sculpt writings on clay to preserve them.


“It’s something I’m passionate about,” Salem said. “I was exposed to clay and sculpture and art and painting from a long time ago. I’ve always integrated Arabic into clay.”


Attendees then had the opportunity to work with clay and sculpt their own designs.


“I got the chance to work with clay for the first time and it was very fun making interesting designs and learning from people,” said Maryam Jawaid, third-year biology major.


The event was part of a week-long affair to unveil features of the Middle East and North African region to show that behind the conflicted region, there is beauty and art.


“Anything that one can share, especially things like culture and art is important,” Salem said. “The key is to have enough people that can see and enjoy it and share it with their friends.”


“To get people involved and to show them how language can be beautiful like in writings is very important,” Alzahrani said.


Previous events of the week included a breakfast with the professors program and a series of mini-lectures detailing first-hand experiences UT students had in the region.


The week was sponsored by the UT Department of World Languages and Cultures, Middle East Studies, the Arabic Program, the School of Interdisciplinary Studies, Arabesque and the MENAA Organization.

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