Her Highness Sheikha Khawla Bint Ahmed Bin Khalifa Al Suwaidi has always been inspired by Arabic Calligraphy but she decided to take that passion to the next level by creating her own Calligraphy works.
As a poet, artist, and writer she combines these three skills to produce works that reflect her personality and feature her unique artistic touch. After being fascinated by Arabic Calligraphy for many years, Her Highness decided to study the art form, specialising in one of its distinct forms known as Al Diwani Al Jali. She created a new, malleable, and modern style of calligraphy, allowing her to create unique pieces that reflect her inner thoughts experiences and personality.
Her Highness also went on to promote and nurture the art form of Calligraphy by founding the Khawla Art and Cultural Foundation, a platform dedicated to supporting and nourishing young talented artists in the world of Arabic Calligraphy. With this foundation, she offers her knowledge to nurture talented artists all around the world as well as ensures that Arabic Calligraphy is seen and understood by people of all cultures and backgrounds. She has also since established Khawla’s Cultural Majlis, a council concerned with tracking cultural affairs. The Majlis holds a monthly meeting to discuss cultural matters in the fields of art, calligraphy, and poetry, as well as holding seminars that focus on various aspects of culture. This helps to ensure that these art forms are preserved and nurtured for generations to come.
As Her Highness revealed her latest exhibition “Composing Calligraphy” at the Khwala Art Gallery in Dubai, we find out more about her passion and desire to share the art of Arabic Calligraphy with the rest of the world.
Tell us about your fascination with calligraphy and Arabic letters.
Calligraphy is a way of expressing yourself, your emotions, your thoughts, and your existence. The origins of civilisation began with calligraphy such as Hieroglyphs, Sanskrit, Egyptian, etc. so if it weren’t for calligraphy, cultures wouldn’t exist. Think of what would have happened if there were no scripts; where would our cultures and history lie? Calligraphy, and more importantly letters, helped to preserve our beautiful history. What fascinates me about Arabic letters specifically is how we were able to conserve them, but also develop them and create a whole world that revolves around the language.
How did this passion become a career?
I do not call it a career per se, my love and passion for Arabic Calligraphy made me want to create something to share with the world and this is when I founded the Khawla Art and Culture Foundation.
We know you are interested in many areas of the arts – poetry, music, writing – how do you bring all these together through your calligraphy works?
My works are a combination of poetry, music and writing as I expressed during my recent exhibition “Composing Calligraphy”. Regarding my way of drawing letters, I feel it’s an instant instinct, a feeling that I get when I hold my brush, turn on the background music and sit at my desk. It cannot be described; I enter a world where no one can interrupt my thoughts and I am left with just my imagination. It is at this moment that I am motivated to compose my calligraphy works.
Tell us about the inspiration and messages behind your works – what drives you to create them?
I am always inspired by what I’m reading and what I am passing through in life. What I read follows my state of mind.
How do your own memories or experiences influence your works?
My artworks are proof of all my life experiences. As I go through my works and look back at each one, I can directly know what I was passing through at that particular time. I can easily say that my works are a timeline of my own history.
How would you define your style of calligraphy?
My style of calligraphy is defined by freedom. It is the freedom of using the letters and composing my own personal and unique works.
What can you tell us about your recent exhibition “Composing Calligraphy” and the works you are showing?
“Composing Calligraphy” featured both my styles: traditional and new, and it also featured my most valuable piece “Al Hayat”. The exhibition is a summary of my artistic life in Arabic Calligraphy, and the beginning of my deeper explorations of the world of languages and calligraphy.
When and where are you in your most creative state of mind?
All I need is a soothing setting with background music and my pen. In winter, I can’t deny that the weather and atmosphere have a big impact too and therefore I find myself mostly producing in winter.
What message do you want to share with the rest of the world about the Arabic language and culture?
First of all, I always say that language itself is the basis for all cultures and civilizations, and calligraphy is a translation of these words. For me, the Arabic language is one of the most important languages in the world and unfortunately, it has been neglected by its people. We have over 12 million spoken words and over 220 fonts of calligraphy! How can we as Arabs, not appreciate this?
Why do you think it’s important to sustain calligraphy today?
It is important to preserve our language. Calligraphy is key to doing so. On one side you are creating an artwork and transmitting a certain idea or message, but more importantly, you are conserving and protecting your identity and your culture.
Tell us about Khawla Art and Culture – what are you hoping to achieve with this initiative?
Khawla Art and Culture was founded with the main aim of promoting and conserving the history of Arabic Calligraphy. We work on many research projects that revolve around the history of Arabic calligraphy, how it began and how it evolved through time. This research is also about the history of the Arab world and the Arabic cultures through time. With “Art for All” we aim to educate people on these matters by providing them with courses, workshops, and lectures, enabling them to tap into their creative potential by developing their artistic abilities and artistic knowledge. It is also a way to build bridges between different cultures: Persian, Turkish, Middle Eastern, etc. exchanging knowledge and thoughts are fundamental to evolve and grow.
Through Khawla Art Gallery, we present arts of the MENA region, seeking to connect further with MENA culture and its history. Inviting artists with different styles of art, materials, and colours; reflecting each artist’s mother culture. Khawla Art and Culture hopes to transmit the voice of Arabic culture to the world.
What can you tell us about the young talents you have seen in the UAE in the areas of art and Arabic calligraphy and how your platform is helping to nourish this talent?
Through Khawla Art and Culture, we searched and discovered a great number of talented emerging artists that need to be nurtured. I was truly amazed by their incredible capabilities and creativity. In the UAE, many young talented calligraphy artists are innovating and evolving the art of Arabic Calligraphy in a more modern way that is more attractive and interesting in today’s international community.
I try to showcase their works and highlight them by exhibiting their artworks, promoting them on our platform and introducing them to the artistic community. We must appreciate young talents, motivate them, and promote their artistry, and it is also very important for us to let these artists appreciate their culture and understand more about the Arabic language and Arabic calligraphy.
What would you like to see as the future of this industry in the region and globally?
Khawla Art and Culture began with the hope that Arabic art and culture can be recognised and appreciated internationally as they should be. I always say that a country without an artistic and cultural heritage is not complete, what if we are talking about the whole MENA region? A region that is filled with great poets, writers, artists, musicians and more. It all starts by having an impact on and nurturing one talent, and from one individual to another, society as a whole will create an impact by itself.
I would like to see more Arab artists featured in international museums, I would like to have schools and universities teach students about our culture and our heritage as we are learning about the history of other cultures. I would like to see young students reading Arabic poetry and appreciating it, communicating in Arabic and being proud of their language.
What is the biggest challenge you face in what you do?
To prove my presence despite all the challenges, to set a goal and aim on reaching it no matter the hardships. And my biggest challenge will always be my biggest motivation to move forward and never give up on my goal.
What is something you would still like to achieve that you haven’t done yet?
I am currently working on an Arabic Calligraphy book that covers the entire history of Arabic calligraphy, its evolution and where it stands today. After months of hard work, research and connecting with Calligraphy artists from around the world, this would be one of my greatest achievements. Arabic Calligraphy is not a craft, it is an art, and this should be understood by all.