Saudi poet’s new work commended

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Updated 03 February 2013
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Saudi poet’s new work commended

Saudi poet Nimah Ismail Nawwab’s latest book, “Canvas of the Soul: Mystic Poems from the Heartland of Arabia,” is getting good reviews as the poet continues her book tours, lectures, readings, book signings and workshops in several countries.
For many readers the majesty of Islamic arts is fully showcased in this remarkable feast for the eyes and senses, a feast that begins with the striking cover.
As an art lover and photographer whose work with artists, calligraphers and filmmakers has led to an interest in highlighting the Islamic arts, Nawwab decided to have the artwork produced in Turkey, which she considers “the land of master calligraphers.” She worked with the US-based publisher Tughra Publishing and their branch offices in Istanbul to compose the designs.
“Every graphic element, every color, on every page with every poem and how each poem was laid out was carefully worked out,” Nawwab told Arab News. “This is not the usual practice with publishers in the industry, but I stipulated that in the contract and it was a real blessing, and was due to my background with art history and familiarity of publication layout.”
Praise for her work has come from international scholars and artists such as Sami Yusuf, Shems Frieldander, Omid Safi, Mohamed Zakariya, James Morris and Tayyibah Taylor.
Nawwab was recently ranked at No. 6 in the list of the most influential Muslim women. Her new volume of English poetry offers readers a window into the soul of a woman who is a firm believer in combining the arts, promoting Islamic calligraphy and her stunning poetic compositions. She continues to break records with her poetic work raising the bar of her art, building on the previous best-seller “The Unfurling,” which had led to book signings in Washington, D.C., and Saudi Arabia.
Nawwab shares her moving poems that embody a voice that recalls that Islam emphasizes not only Divine Justice but also Divine Mercy.
According to one reviewer, the present book is significant in that it reflects something of that classical expression of spiritual beauty in a contemporary language from by a female poet who hails from the land of the Prophet (peace be upon him).
Nawwab’s latest tours in the US, Canada and UK, and a most recent trip to Istanbul led to readings, lectures and signings where audiences engaged with her in a unique and highly interactive manner.
Musician Sami Yusuf described Nawwab as a talented writer and poet “who is not afraid to speak her mind and address issues that, quite frankly, are often ignored as a result of timidity.”
“I commend her efforts in this noble initiative where the arts combine in powerfully written poetic compositions and a showcasing of Islamic arts,” said Yusuf.
Professor Shems Friedlander, author, filmmaker, painter, who contributed the foreword to the volume, said: “Breath is the essence of life. Drawing is the essence of painting. Typography is the essence of design. Poetry is the essence of literature.”


Meet Abdulrahman Eid: The Syrian artist inspired by Hijazi heritage

Updated 24 May 2019
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Meet Abdulrahman Eid: The Syrian artist inspired by Hijazi heritage

  • ‘Saudi Arabia is becoming a fertile environment for young artists to develop’

JEDDAH: The unique heritage of the historic Jeddah area and the surrounding Hijaz region has long proved fascinating for visitors. That was certainly true for Abdulrahman Eid, a Syrian artist who has lived in the Kingdom for 18 years, and whose work is inspired by Hijazi culture and artistic heritage.

Eid was born in Damascus in 1997. Before moving to Saudi Arabia, he helped restore and renovate historic buildings and works of art, including antiques, manuscripts, and paintings.

He currently works as a jewelry designer in Jeddah, and has plans to share his knowledge with the public through courses and workshops, as he believes jewelry design could and should be much more popular in the Middle East.

Eid first came to Saudi Arabia to work as the director of an exhibition of Eastern and Antarctic at. He said he exhibited some of the work he had produced at Janadriyah’s cultural festival in 2002 and 2003. But between 2003 and 2018, he took a break from making his own artwork.

However, he is now back with a vengeance. His latest creation —  a diorama that portrays life in Jeddah in the 1950s, consists of more than 1,700 pieces, which Eid hopes will get him into the record books. His decision to document life in old Jeddah was partly driven, he says, by nostalgia for his homeland, and partly by his wish to acknowledge his appreciation of art.

Project

The project, which Eid hopes to finish and present to the public within the next two weeks, has taken the artist more than three years of hard work so far, much of which was spent researching.

“I collected many books and old photographs of various Orientalists and studied how they were documenting the country in the 30s, 40s, and 50s,” he said. Eid found numerous sources through which he could study various historic houses and neighborhoods of old Jeddah, including —  of course —  walking the streets himself. He cites Noor Wali House, Al-Batarji, Beit Nasif, Al-Matbouli and others as inspirations. However, none of the houses in his artwork are named, or presented as exact replicas of existing buildings. 

“Some houses and neighborhoods with important historic value do not exist anymore, and I do not want to diminish any of their value. I collected various elements from different houses and made it into one unnamed neighborhood that imitates the reality of the past,” he said.

Eid’s diorama is 320 cm long, 130 cm high and 45 cm wide. It is full of houses, antique cars and shops — a carpet shop, a silver shop, a copper shop, and a shop for household items, such as pottery.

The intricate miniature pieces in the shops include handmade carpets, hanging lamps, lanterns, old swords and other weapons, old-fashioned household appliances, mirrors, antiques, gifts, and handicrafts of the kind sold to pilgrims. “I tried to integrate all the elements that were there in Hijaz in the past,” he said. “It is more of a documentary artwork.” Staying faithful to his source material, Eid even used precious stones and metals to create the miniature merchandise.

Eid describes his project as “a collection of around 10 types of art, including miniature, diorama, painting, sculpture, formative art, and jewelry design.”

His buildings incorporate the many distinctive decorative styles of traditional Hijazi architecture: panelings, moldings, door shapes, and Rawashin — the carved latticed windows typical of the area. “It contains a huge amount of art that interested the people of the country at that time,” he said of his ambitious project.

Eid said he has benefitted from the knowledge of many people who are familiar with historical Jeddah — including intellectuals, architects, civil engineers and local dignitaries.

“Many people have visited me in my studio and seen the work,” he said. “I’ve made a lot of amendments based on their recommendations. I took their comments into account and restructured the work several times over the past year until I finally reached the version that most closely embodies the reality.”

Eid said the fine and precise nature, and the astonishing variety, of Hijazi arts presented a serious challenge —  one that he was keen to embrace. “I found a unique, unparalleled precision and accuracy in Hijazi artistic heritage,” he said. “It is harmoniously composed of rich elements that I have not found in any other regions of the Kingdom.”

Still, he did sometimes worry that he had taken on too big a task. “Sometimes I felt I would not finish it for years,” he said.

Hijazi culture

Hijazi culture, Eid pointed out, is “cross-cultural.” Jeddah has been the main port for pilgrims for hundreds of years, and as a result, the city and surrounding areas have gained a unique character —  possessing the spirit of numerous other cities from both East and West. 

Eid claimed that anyone visiting Jeddah’s historic areas would likely see something of their own country there. “I saw something of Syria,” he said.

Over the last fortnight or so, photographs of Eid’s project have been widely shared on social media —  with some people mistakenly claiming that the images were off work based on the old cities in Damascus or Cairo.

“I was pleased with what happened,” Eid said. “I received a lot of encouragement and support.”

The Syrian artist said he has had many similar experiences with Damascene architecture when he was working in his homeland. “I have to say, though, that this experience has been more enjoyable, with its challenges, fine details, and richness,” he added. 

Eid said he believes recent years have seen an evolving renaissance in the arts in Saudi Arabia, marked by growing interest from the government and the public in the Kingdom’s heritage and its cultural value. 

“Saudi Arabia is becoming a fertile environment for young artists to develop,” he said. “The number of galleries has multiplied, and a real movement has begun. I believe this movement in Saudi Arabia will grant the youth diverse opportunities and will raise the standards and the level of competition between them.” Such competition is important to improve artists’ abilities and the quality of art works delivered to the public, he added.

While Eid views the current condition as very healthy, he pointed out that there are many young artists who need financial support if they are really going to fulfill their potential, and that “those who have the financial support still need guidance.”

“Regardless of everything,” he concluded. “I am sure the future is promising.”