These are the courses I currently teach, mostly at the Arab British Centre in London and sometimes online. More are being developed, to be added in due time. Please scroll down to read about my teaching approach.
An intermediate course building on my foundational Manuscript Kufi class to learn the script of the stunning Qarmatian Qur’an in relation to the earlier style. The same learning process is followed, covering every aspect of the script including the elaborate vocalisation system with its unique use of ihmāl, plus some letter variants and decorative freestyling found in historical sources. We also look at the typical layout and what has changed, to finish by creating a complete page or composition.
The last session took place in October 2022. The next session is not scheduled yet but will be added in due course.
This is a complete introduction to the finest of the Abbasid scripts calligraphy. We learn to use the pen and gallnut ink associated with this style, then we cover the complete script grammar, starting with each letter individually before learning how to combine them. We practice with short sentences before learning how to plan a full-page layout, complete with red vowel marks and golden punctuation. The student is then fully equipped to create work in the historical tradition, or to explore a more contemporary direction.
The next in-person session is not scheduled yet.
This course is also available online, at your own pace, on Domeštika, but I am no longer able to provide frequent or detailed feedback on it. Full details and enrollment here.
Geometric Principles of Kufi
In this course, we take a close look at the letters as individual constructed shapes. We analyse the quintessence of each letter and its manifestations in different styles of Kufic to arrive at an understanding of what makes each letter, what is essential vs. adaptable, and the formal relationships that link some letters together. We also look at how flourishes and compositions are developed. The objective is to equip students with the understanding of principles that run through the entire Kufic family, so they can work with historical styles or reinvent the script according to their own creativity, while preserving the spirit of the tradition.
The last session took place in June-July 2021. The next session is not scheduled yet but will be added in due course.
Also known as Masonry Script or khatt banna’i, this style developed as an architectural style to be rendered in brick or tile, often on a monumental scale. Yet it is equally at home at the much smaller size of paper or textiles, and even, today, in the tiny canvas of pixel art. It is unique among calligraphy styles in that it adds to artistry a dimension of puzzle-solving.
In this course, we learn the rules and principles of Square Kufic, how to compose by manipulating the letters and using rotations to fill a surface or to create a repeating pattern. From the basic square grid, we move to variations in grid proportions and shape, including three-dimensional effects and circular compositions, opening up the creative potential of this technique. Finally, we cover how to transfer a finalized design to art paper, to finish in class or at home depending on time.
The next session will take place on Zoom in February-March 2023 via the Arab British Centre.
About my training and the way I teach:
Years of working with master calligrapher Samir Sayegh first brought me in close relationship to the Kufi scripts. I have since spent another decade on what has become my life’s work: deepening my understanding of this tradition and gradually making it accessible. As there are no teaching lineages for Kufi, I strictly work from primary sources (historical inscriptions) to reconstruct the system, leaning on scholarly research for context as far as it’s able to go. I’m careful to study Kufi on its own terms, without misleading influence from the later tradition of round scripts.
There is more to Kufi than writing and I approach it as it was meant to be: a spiritual practice that dampens the ego the better to elevate the soul. Kufi was designed to reflect into the world the beauty and power of the Sacred. Kufi calligraphers were, like cathedral builders, anonymous; they didn’t work for status or acclaim, but to offer up their patient labour and creativity in devotion to something greater than themselves. Students are not required to share the same motivations, but to be aware we are working with a culture’s sacred craft and there is a duty of respect there.
But I also approach it as a living tradition, not the fossilized remains of an ancient art. A living tradition is one that is able to grow and evolve. To be rooted in the authentic tradition is critically important, but the practitioner must be allowed to breathe the life of their own creativity into it. This was always part of Kufi in a way not found in later standardised scripts. For this reason my classes demand an extra effort from students, which is to develop their own critical senses to understand how the script can and cannot change, so they can then take their practice forward on their own.