Kashmir's budding artists revive dying art of calligraphy

Young artists have launched an online startup to revive the ancient art of calligraphy in Kashmir.

In his late 20s, Soleh Alnajarri, has been bought up in a family of artists in downtown Srinagar.

Given his love for art and literature, he learned Arabic and Persian from a very young age which later helped him to excel in calligraphy.

Alnajarri’s calligraphy academy trains scores of students today. After mastering the authentic art of calligraphy he is now selling his art online.

“I started ‘Alif Academy’ as a language school first; then I added calligraphy program to it. First the response was very minor but soon many students came to learn the art given that there is no major school for calligraphy in Kashmir,” Soleh said.

He said his passion made him to connect and learn from Turkish and Middle Eastern artists through social media which helped him to learn from the best and pass it on to students.

“Most of the artists here do painting rather than calligraphy. In authentic calligraphy we use calligraphy Qalams (pens) made in special shape and material. Through online platforms I learned from two expert artists from Turkey and Middle East. I learned lot about the authentic art, use of Qalams, fonts and special handmade paper for calligraphy.

“I also got my hands on the books of artists like Mehmet Sewki, a 9th century calligraphy artist. Now I teach over three dozen students online and offline and also earn from selling the art through my Instagram page “Elkhatt store”, he said.

Many young self taught calligraphy artists are blending the English and Arabic languages to give a “fusion form” to the calligraphy.

The artists like Falak Rashid from Srinagar are using modern tools along with Qalams to make calligraphy art and sells them online.

“From childhood I was very good at drawing and my handwriting was appreciated. Soon after my schooling I started writing names in Arabic calligraphy for my cousins and siblings. I tried to merge English with Arabic and everyone loved it.

“Over a period of time I took help from YouTube videos, softwares in learning how to use different Qalams and other tools. In 2018, I stated my Instagram page “Scribbled Ink” where I receive orders.

“Many Kashmiris are turning their passion into business which serves them and the art as well,” Falak said adding that she is one of the few artists who are well versed with digital calligraphy.

Students are learning the art of calligraphy and showing their interest in reviving and enriching this art in Kashmir.

Shah Rutbah, joined the Alif Academy to learn languages during her 12th grade. Her love for calligraphy compelled her to take up a full-fledged calligraphy program in the academy.

Over past more than a year she has now mastered four fonts, which are also called Khats. She is planning to learn all the seven form (Khats) of calligraphy.

“Here people feel no difference between painting and calligraphy. If we go through proper training we will know about use of Qalams, Ink used in calligraphy and preparation of handmade papers for calligraphy. It is good to see that many of my classmates have stated to earn from the art,” Rutbah said.