Saudi calligrapher Nasser Al-Salem’s modern take on Islamic art

Al-Salem is one of 10 contemporary artists awarded the Al-Burda Endowment in 2018. (Supplied)
Updated 06 November 2019

Saudi calligrapher Nasser Al-Salem’s modern take on Islamic art

DUBAI: Jeddah-based Saudi artist Nasser Al-Salem has revealed his latest project, which will be showcased in the UAE’s Al-Burda Endowment exhibition — organized by the UAE Ministry of Culture and Knowledge Development — on Nov. 21.

Al-Salem is one of 10 contemporary artists awarded the Al-Burda Endowment in 2018. The endowment is awarded to “artists who explore Islamic art practices and continue to work towards developing contemporary Islamic Art,” according to a press release.




Al-Salem's latest project will be showcased in the UAE’s Al-Burda Endowment exhibition. (Supplied)

That is something Al-Salem has a history of doing, dating back to his time studying at Al-Haram Al-Sharif in Makkah. In 2010, Al-Salem came second in Saudi Arabia’s National Calligraphy competition. He is also a member of the National Guild of Calligraphers and an active member of Saudi Arabia’s Arts and Culture Group.

His work in general incorporates modern design elements (he has a background in architecture) with traditional calligraphy and Islamic geometry, often referencing verses from the Qur’an. He has been hailed as “pushing the boundaries of Islamic calligraphy” for his habit of using mixed-media platforms to present his work.




In 2010, Al-Salem came second in Saudi Arabia’s National Calligraphy competition. (Supplied)

For the Al-Burda exhibition, Al-Salem has created an installation of a room with green walls (a reference to the green screens used to insert special effects into movies) with Arabic text written on them — a quote from the hadith, “Ma la aynon raat,” which translates as “Like never seen before,” according to Al-Salem.

“The idea (behind the) green-screen room is that every (filmmaker) can create a scene, then edit the picture and add backgrounds that are sometimes surreal or difficult to achieve in real life,” Al-Salem told Arab News. “Every one of us has different expectations of heaven, and I tried to translate this idea in the project. When you are in the room, you will not only see one perspective of the project, you can also spin around to see other perspectives of the work… and this translates the idea of ‘Like Never Seen Before.’ There isn't one clear image you can see from one corner of the room, just like there isn't one perspective or one picture through which we can imagine heaven.”


Alternative artists Freek, Karrouhat drop surprise new singles

UAE-based rapper Freek released a new music video this week. (Instagram/@freektv)
Updated 29 March 2020

Alternative artists Freek, Karrouhat drop surprise new singles

DUBAI: You may be familiar with Freek, one of the biggest Arabic drill artists to come from the region, and this weekend, the rapper unveiled his latest music video for “Mush Fathi” – which means “I’m busy” in Arabic.  

The setting is a roof top, the dress code is luxury streetwear and the message is clear: The artist is indeed busy. 

Between churning out new music, the Somali artist, who was born Mustafa Ismail in the UAE, can be credited for pushing the sub-genre of hip hop, which was popularized by Chicago rapper and Kanye West co-signee Chief Keef, to the forefront in the Arab world. His unique sound, which combines Arabic lyrics with menacing trap-influenced beats, has landed him slots at acclaimed festivals including Sole DXB and the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix.

In his ongoing pursuit of pioneering the sub-genre of hip hop in the Middle East, he has garnered a legion of fans that extend beyond the Gulf. A quick scroll through the YouTube comment section of his widely-viewed music videos reveals a following that encapsulates Libya, Egypt, Sudan, Jordan and even goes as far as Canada.

And Freek wasn’t the only UAE-based artist to drop a new music video this week. Kuwait-born DJ and model Basil Al-Hadi, who goes by the moniker Karrouhat, also treated his fans to a surprise new musical release. The DJ posted the clip for “Nefsi Aghaneelik” on YouTube on Saturday.