Kufi

My current phone wallpaper

I took the basic khat (arabic calligraphy) part time course last year at the Islamic Arts Museum Malaysia. The course covered a few calligraphic styles but this is definitely one of my favourite styles. It's one of the things I look out for when I visit historical buildings in muslim countries and Andalucia, Spain. The piece of design above has probably been featured on my blog so many times. Well, it is my name and this is my blog so no wonder right? It is written in a particular Arabic Calligraphic style called "Square Kufic" style. It is a form of Kufic script. I enjoy doing this particular style cos you don't really need much calligraphic talent and skill to do it. Also, trying to fill in the gaps is really therapeutic and gets your mind off other things. Plus, the completed work is very attractive. First, a brief into on Kufic style of calligraphy from internet sources: 
Kufic is the oldest calligraphic form of the various Arabic scripts and consists of a modified form of the old Nabataean script. Its name is derived from the city of Kufa, Iraq. although it was known in Mesopotamia at least a 100 years before the foundation of Kufa. At the time of the emergence of Islam, this type of script was already in use in various parts of the Arabian Peninsula. It was in this script that the first copies of the Qur'an were written.

There are several Arabic Kufi styles but the most common ones are:

1. Old Archaic Kufi,
2. Floral Geometric Kufi and
3. Square Kufi.

The Archaic Kufi originates from Kufa in Iraq; hence the Kufi Calligraphic style name. The old kufi (Archaic Kufi) contisted of around 17 lettersforms without diacritic dots or accents. Afterwards the diacritic dots and accents were added in order to help pronunciation and the set of Arabic letters rose to 29 (including the Hamza).

With the birth of Islam, the Quran became the reason to reform all the Arabic scripts found in Arabia. One unified coherent Arabic script with 29 letters was developed for the writing of the holy scripts of the Quran in the 7th century AD. Primarily the Quran was written with the kufi script and later it was written with the Naskh style. The geometric Floral Kufi style is the descended of the Archaic Kufi style.
Floral Kufi is purely geometric in construction and the endings of the letters grow into floral patterns. Finaly the square Kufi is a geometric pattern style where the positive and negative spaces have the same width/proportions and the Kufi letters are drawn in simplified basic structures. 
 I can't possibly teach you guys about how to do Square Kufi art but I can give you a brief outline so that the next time you see this at a mosque or at some historical building in the middle east you will be able to appreciate it more and maybe try to read it. It can be read and is not mere geometric art. Heck, you can even find a Square Kufi art piece on one of the walls at level 3 Suria KLCC next to that tudung shop, i think that is opposite the Petronas Gallery, but i may be wrong. I dun work in KLCC.

First of all, let me show you how the letters look like when written in square Kufi. Note that most of the time the script is written without the dots. I sometimes put the dots in my work just so that I can colour them in adding to the modern ness of my work. As with other khat styles, adhering  to the rules and letter proportions and forms is very important. For example, a lam must not look like a ra and the proportions must be right to make that differentiation. Here's a guide to square kufi letter forms:


Other rules worth noting is that there may not be 2 consecutive "blank spaces" between letters. When i say blank spaces I mean the art must be snake like as in the nokia game "snake". That's the fun of doing square kufi: getting everything to "fit" without any extra spaces in between i.e. staying within the rules.

Another thing to note is that in a purely square piece like the one below, the  words spiral inwards from the outside. Usually it's from the top right hand corner but sometimes it starts from the bottom right hand corner. the piece below reads "Allahumma inna nasaluka redha ka wal jannah, wa nauzubika min sakhattika wannaar." One of my earliest attempts at square kufi on canvas. I did not do the design though. Credit to Mr Shukur Yahaya for that. 


The prayer means: O lord, please accept us into paradise and save us from the fire of Hell
 The same piece modified to be given as a wedding gift  

Sometimes I like to sign my works of art with a Kufi sign like the piece below. It is a mix of roman letters and Kufic letters but all in English Language.


Here's a recently completed one:


It reads: "by 'Afif: completed 16th April 2010, Wangsa Melawati." It's just a nice way of recording my work without it looking like an obvious label like the ones the teachers made us write at the the top of the margins in our exercise books at school. hehehe... 

I've been quite lazy to do any canvas art lately. There's still one piece I've been working on since February! Not touched it ever since. And suddenly now I have not much free time left. Those lucky enough to have received my kufi art count yourself very lucky cos I have been rather lazy or just have not any time to do any new art as of late. I usually give out my art as wedding gifts to close friends if i have any in stock. hehehe... as of late, stock is running low as there as been a "plant shut down" lately... hehehe...

Anyways, for those wanting to try their hand at this you can do so on Microsoft Excel. All you need to do is make sure that the cell shape is square. Get rid of the grid lines. Design by selecting the cells you want to colour and just click the paint bucket/fill button. Doing on excel means that you can delete any mistakes and redo. Experimenting with designs is also easy peasy in Excel. The manual method is by using graph paper which I do use myself sometimes, esp when my printer's ink is out and I'm too broke to buy new ink cartridges. So, why not give it a shot? It's cool. I'll leave you with some artwork i found on the net:

Cool ring with "Allah" written on it. Probably won't want to be walking around with God's name written all over my finger but with my name on it might be really cool.

This is the shahaadah written around a really common geometric motive that I have been trying to learn to do but can never remember how to do it...again, it's all about proportions.

Oklah... that's it from me for now. Next installment I will talk about the Tughra, a really cool khat design style used but the Ottoman Turkish Sultans as official seals. I will try to do my name in that style if i can find time to try it out... Laters...