Calligraphy artist Wissam Shawkat seeks to break the mold after mastering classic styles

Wissam Shawkat pictured at Tashkeel in Dubai. (Arab News)
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Updated 30 March 2020

Calligraphy artist Wissam Shawkat seeks to break the mold after mastering classic styles

DUBAI: “If you continue practicing calligraphy in its traditional scripts, that’s a limitation by itself,” Iraqi artist Wissam Shawkat told Arab News while explaining the need to master the craft and then innovate to push Arabic calligraphy into the future.

“I mean I am not against learning traditional scripts. I’ve been doing calligraphy for almost 35 years, but I arrived to a point that if you continue like doing only traditional scripts at the end you are just copying what's been done 100 years ago,” Shawkat, who is based in Dubai, explained.

'Lost in Love' by Wissam Shawkat. (Supplied)

The artist’s passion for calligraphy started in 1984, when his art teacher decided to, for a day, teach them the skill instead of drawing, he said. “So, he held the chalk on the side and wrote four letters of Ruqa’a style, which is (a) very basic style in calligraphy, but as a kid this has a very big impact on me,” Shawkat said. It was then Shawkat learned to appreciate the beauty of the Arabic letter — “aalligraphy became an obsession,” he said.

'Quad Love' by Wissam Shawkat. (Supplied)

After training as a civil engineer, Shawkat decide to switch careers and dived into life as a calligraphy artists. And he achieved fame along the way, having worked with the likes of Tiffany & Co. and Hermes.

'Something' by Wissam Shawkat. (Supplied)

“Usually, the traditional way of learning calligraphy comes with the relationship of the master and the student. You have like a master, you study with him, (and) he guides you in certain forms.” But as a child, Shawkat did not have the “luxury” of having an educator. So, according to him, he had to depend on himself to learn the ins and outs of the notoriously laborious and strict art form.

'Loving Heart 3' by Wissam Shawkat. (Supplied)

In 2014, Shawkat broke the mold by creating his own calligraphy style, Al Wissam, which references a number of traditional scripts, including Sunbuli, Jali Diwani, Eastern Kufic and Thuluth.

Arab Fashion Week 2020 will be virtual

Arab Fashion Week is set to take place online from June 24 to 26. (AFP)
Updated 28 May 2020

Arab Fashion Week 2020 will be virtual

DUBAI: Arab Fashion Week (AFW) is the latest major fashion event to go virtual as nations worldwide try to curb the spread of COVID-19 through lockdowns. Arab Fashion Council announced Thursday that AFW will take place online from June 24 to 26.


Future so bright on the @sophia_nubes #ArabFashionWeek runway. #WeAreAheadNF

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“We are thrilled to be able to revolutionize the traditional calendar by adapting a new digital experience that best fits the global financial and digital trend,” CEO of Arab Fashion Council Jacob Abrian said in a released statement. “We consider this move as a victorious step to shape the future of the fashion system into a more consumer-conscious platform and sustainable culture.”

While the runways and the panel discussions air live on AFW’s website, viewers will be able to buy their favorite pieces online.

AFW follows the lead of the fashion weeks in London and Milan, which announced that they will also take place online due to coronavirus restrictions. Key fashion events such as the Met Gala and the final for the LVMH Prize for Young Fashion Designers have been cancelled.