Middle-east Arab News Opinion | Asharq Al-awsat

Opinion: The Culture of Calligraphy | ASHARQ AL-AWSAT English Archive 2005 -2017
Select Page
Media ID: 55357495

For the Chinese, calligraphy is an art almost as revered as poetry. In Arab culture, calligraphy is as valued as drawing is in the west, and I do not know why Arab intelligence services suffer from a shortage of calligraphers. The words for signboards are composed by one man, usually one who lacks an imagination and creativity. Signboards are usually written by one calligrapher who often lacks talent or feels incredibly bored of his profession.

A writer composes the slogans that he is asked to compose, and the calligrapher writes what is dictated to him. This occurs in all similar systems, whether the writing is in Chinese, Arabic or Khmer.

During the days when ideas from the Green Book controlled the smitten world, standardised signs for the Third International Theory were displayed. The only problem was – as always – the quality of the calligraphy. Lebanon was known for its expert calligraphers in the Arab world, and one of them wrote a poem on a grain of rice. However, the calligraphers were of the same calibre of the signboards that they wrote on, and their disgust of their content could be seen through the negligent way that they wrote on them.

At a time when the signboards of Beirut were saying that the eyes of the world were on the Third International Theory, the intellectual commission for the Khmer Rouge revolution was issuing statements like the following: “The whole world keeps its eyes on Democratic Kampuchea, for Khmer Revolution is the most beautiful and the most pure. Khmer Revolution is without a precedent in world history. It resolved the eternal contradiction between city and country.”

How did Pol Pot resolve the contradiction between rural and urban areas? Over three weeks he had emptied the capital Phnom Penh and even patients were left to die on the roads. When the Vietnamese army entered the city three years later, it found seventy human beings wandering in a ghost town.

What are numbers in the eyes of cruel people and those who are ill with violence? Do not look at the atrocities committed around you. Look at the reactions. Do not look at the savagery, but the silence that surrounds it or even welcomes it. The nation is on the roads and people are looking for calligraphers writing welcoming banners in ugly writing and letters from the Dracula’s alphabet.

I was and I will remain convinced that the problem often lies with the one who is instructed, not with the one who inspires. However, by saying this, one does great injustice to the liberals of the world and those who reject slavery and systematic oppression.