الجمعة، 4 سبتمبر، 2009

The faces of Arabic Calligraphy: Meem Designs by Amira Bishady






Written by Randa El Tahawy-Community Times magazine

As a graduate from the school of Fine Arts and working in interior designing, 26-year-old Amira Bishady gave it all up a year ago to explore her talent and vision and revive the art of Arabic calligraphy. She started Meem designs, a collection of Arabic calligraphy writings designed on textile, walls, canvases, t-shirts, table cloths, lamps, curtains and all sorts of accessories for the house, making calligraphy a perfect expression of Arab culture.
“I had a vision and I saw that I had the potential to succeed and explore my talents, so I wanted to be totally devoted to nurturing it,” she says.
Bishady found her vocation in Arabic calligraphy as a way to express a message to the people and revive the Arab culture and its heritage. She finds it a shame that the rich Arabic culture is not being displayed and praised. “We all know Arabic, we speak it, it is our language that we have to use because it is something that makes us special. We live it.” She also wants to spread a positive message to others about the Arab culture that it is not always related to violence and war.

“It is refined, we have our own unique art, people use the Latin letters in many ways, why not use our own letters too?”
With only one year of experience in the field, Bishady is specialized in creating designs using the Nastaliq Farsi Font. She finds this font extremely beautiful and expressive. It is slightly tilted and is not so much based on the vocalization, but rather on the beauty of the letters.
It was very hard for her to start her project because of the difficulties in learning a complex art and of having to quit her job. Although people were doubtful of her success, she insisted on full devotion to her work, because she believed she could succeed and create something big. I feel I’m different in how I write and in what words I write; they have a positive energy,” she says.

She started learning and discovering calligraphy by reading books and taking classes, computer programs also helped her a lot to be able to create the outline and the font of her designs. She mainly uses brushes to create on textile, walls and canvases, and usually looks at the letters as shapes and figures to be able to depict their beauty. However, she is still learning and exploring Arabic calligraphy in all its forms, “It’s a rich and endless learning field.”
Bishady’s first calligraphic work was a dress that she had designed for herself to wear at a wedding. She says that at the beginning, people were surprised, thinking it was strange to wear and use Arabic calligraphy in designs, but when the feedback grew positively and people started to get impressed, she started designing more items, mainly on textile, but also on canvases and walls. She also worked for some ads that have calligraphy in them. “I don’t understand why people thought it was weird to have Arabic calligraphy used on designs. I think what is more strange is the fact that we don’t use our own letters,” she says.
Bishady created a Facebook group “Meem Designs” with almost 1,300 members where she displays her work and products. Clients can place orders and contact Bishady with the design they want, she does everything herself handmade, and usually meets the client to work with them on the design they want. Depending on the designs and on the material she uses, a product can take around one or two weeks to be finished.
She also designed t-shirts for the famous Egyptian band Wust El Balad, writing in her calligraphy some of the band’s lyrics and verses. “I like the direction of the band’s music and songs because they start from the root of the Arabic and Egyptian language and I guess that’s what makes us close”.


She loves reading, especially poetry, in her designs, she also uses verses from her readings, especially Sufi poetry and sometimes creations of her own. Her favorite verses this year are those of El Halag, which are a praise and reverence to Al El Beit, the descendants of Prophet Mohamed. “Those verses mean a lot to me, they are very spiritual.” They are also the ones printed on Wust El Balad’s t-shirts. She also often writes the verse of Quasida Al Burda, the “ Poem of the Mantle” which is an ode to Prophet Mohamed composed by Egyptian Iman Al Busiri. This poem is also imprinted in the famous Bayt Al Suhaimi in Muezz El Din Street.
For the future, Bishady wants to learn new fonts and hopes for the creation of her own line that could reach big design houses. She also wants to be able to create the calligraphy of all her readings. “So far, I’m very grateful for my success, it is all about motivation and work, nothing comes easily.”
Her experience made her realize many things; “It was like a journey where I got to discover my dreams, my talents and my goals.” Most importantly she wants to keep spreading her message about the value of the Arab culture and heritage. “ No one other than us (Arabs) can succeed in this,” she says.


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