Calligrapher Ruh Al-Alam discusses his contemporary approach to an ancient artform

Calligrapher Ruh Al-Alam discusses his contemporary approach to an ancient artform
Ruh Al-Alam studied design at Central Saint Martins in London. (Supplied)
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Updated 12 June 2020

Calligrapher Ruh Al-Alam discusses his contemporary approach to an ancient artform

Calligrapher Ruh Al-Alam discusses his contemporary approach to an ancient artform

LONDON: ‘The pens have been lifted, and the pages have dried.’ (At-Tirmidhi, 2516) 

This saying from the Hadith has been an inspiration for contemporary calligrapher Ruh Al-Alam, he tells Arab News. 




‘The pens have been lifted, and the pages have dried.’ (At-Tirmidhi, 2516) 

“The reference to the pens and inks resonated with me. This saying refers to the religion being complete — to the fact that Islam has been given to the people and there is nothing more to give; there is nothing more to be taught. There is no better way to present this message than through calligraphy,” he says. 

A British artist of Bangladeshi descent, Al-Alam studied design at Central Saint Martins in London. After graduating, he spent several years in Cairo learning Arabic and studying calligraphy with esteemed teachers.

And while the message of the inspirational hadith that so inspired him may apply to Islam, Al-Alam’s work suggests that his chosen art from still has plenty to give. He sees calligraphy not as a calcified art but something present, alive and relevant. That is reflected in his own style, which has led to collaborations with major brands and organizations including Netflix, the BBC, the UK’s National Portrait Gallery, and Sony. 

“When Sony launched the PlayStation Portable they used Arabic calligraphy to appeal to different audiences,” he says. “They wanted to use something unique to differentiate themselves from others in the market.” 

His desire to make Islamic art accessible and current has been at the heart of his development as an artist. 




This artwork is by Ruh Al-Alam. (Supplied)

“I don’t want to restrict the use of calligraphic arts to just the traditional — I want to apply them in ways that are less common,” he says. “For example, early on when I wanted to decorate my home with artwork, I wanted to put something up that was more spiritually focused. That’s where Islamic art came in. I wanted to make sure I did something that reflected my faith, but couldn’t find anything that I could put up in a more contemporary home that reflected the identity of myself and my family.” So he applied his own imagination. “One God Allah” is a perfect example of Al-Alam’s modern take on the ancient art.

“I wanted to create an emotive piece with a lot of texture and to keep it really simple with strong, contrasting colors. You don’t often see red with a contrasting black or brown color — that’s the contemporary element,” he explains. “I am saying that a calligraphic work doesn’t need to be black ink on a white sheet — it can be different. An important element to consider is where the artwork will be displayed. It could be in a beautiful contemporary home or a workplace, but it is designed to be striking.”




This artwork is by Ruh Al-Alam. (Supplied)

Al-Alam has also incorporated other items used or worn on a daily basis by devout Muslims into his work. He found that traditional prayer mats did not suit his home, so he created a limited edition of contemporary designs, which have proved so popular — even though they are expensive — that he is planning a new series in leather. 

“I was tired of the regular wool-pile prayer mats — many are really badly designed and some do not follow Islamic artistic tradition,” he says. “Also, they don’t fit the lifestyles that a lot of people lead. I always like to leave my prayer mat open so I can leave it in the corner and go back to it. People want minimalist designs in different materials that adhere to Islamic art traditions and suit the design of their homes better.

“I charge a lot more for my prayer mats but they are something you can cherish and they became an instant hit. We sold out right away in the first year,” he said.




He found that traditional prayer mats did not suit his home, so he created a limited edition of contemporary designs. (Supplied)

He has also extended his application of calligraphy to the hijab in a one-off series. 

“Putting abstract calligraphy onto hijabs was a new idea at that time,” Al-Alam claims. “I wanted them to be practical but different. One of the things I had to make sure of was that the lettering on the hijab was not interpreted as being in any way religious, as scripture is not allowed on garments.”

Al-Alam explains that he has personal experience of being falsely accused of disrespecting religious writings. “About a decade ago, I designed some T-shirts and there was a problem in Egypt when a journalist claimed that I had put scripture on them — even to the point of getting a fatwah against me from an Azhari scholar. I then had to go on TV and refute him, at which point he acknowledged that he had not actually seen the T-shirts.” 

 Al-Alam has since built an international reputation and has received many honors — including the Islamic Economy Award for Islamic Arts, which he received from Dubai’s Sheikh Hamdan bin Mohammed Al-Maktoum in 2018 — in recognition of his pioneering work in contemporary Arabic typography and calligraphy. 




The artist’s prayer mats sold out right away in the first year. (Supplied)

His calligraphic script styles include Spirit, Jude and Latin-Arabi, while his innovative Arabic typography includes Kufica, Arabic Didot and Moda. His design agency, Archetype, specializes in Arabic work.

“Right now we are talking to a Saudi client for whom we are designing several websites. We have designed many different logos and identities for clients in Saudi Arabia. I have also been to the Kingdom for religious purposes — for the Hajj and the Umrah and for work visits,” he says, adding that he is very impressed with the burgeoning art scene in Saudi Arabia.

“Artists like Ahmed Mater are amazing and I also see a lot of young artists and calligraphers who are passionately creating work,” he says. “There are a lot of naturally gifted people who are now expressing their talent and when this movement comes to fruition over the next decade it will change how the art of the Middle East is perceived.”

 


US-Palestinian DJ Khaled drops second collaboration with Dolce & Gabbana

US-Palestinian DJ Khaled drops second collaboration with Dolce & Gabbana
The Dolce & Gabbana x Khaled collaboration. Instagram
Updated 13 June 2021

US-Palestinian DJ Khaled drops second collaboration with Dolce & Gabbana

US-Palestinian DJ Khaled drops second collaboration with Dolce & Gabbana

DUBAI: Back in March, US-Palestinian producer DJ Khaled unveiled his first collection with Italian luxury maison Dolce & Gabbana – a Miami-inspired capsule of  beachwear and ready-to-wear unisex pieces, including tracksuits, hoodies, shorts and accessories.

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

A post shared by DJ KHALED (@djkhaled)

Now, the award-winning hitmaker is launching his second collaboration with the Italian fashion house just in time for summer.

Inspired by music, the wilderness and the Mediterranean, the new offering features designs for men, women, children as well as babies. 

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

A post shared by DJ KHALED (@djkhaled)

The collection, which is available online and in select Dolce & Gabbana stores, is punctuated with flamingo and butterfly motifs, floral and animal print and a harmonic purple, blue and yellow colorway. 

A special edition box includes DJ Khaled's latest album, where he dons D&G on the cover.

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

A post shared by DJ KHALED (@djkhaled)


London Fashion Week: Qasimi celebrates Emirati heritage in Spring 2022 collection

London Fashion Week: Qasimi celebrates Emirati heritage in Spring 2022 collection
Qasimi Spring 2022 Ready-to-Wear. Instagram
Updated 13 June 2021

London Fashion Week: Qasimi celebrates Emirati heritage in Spring 2022 collection

London Fashion Week: Qasimi celebrates Emirati heritage in Spring 2022 collection

DUBAI: Day one of London Fashion Week kicked off on June 12 with a striking digital presentation from London-based Emirati menswear label Qasimi titled “Between Ashes and Roses” – inspired by Syrian poet Adunis’s 2004 book of the same name.

Hoor Al-Qasimi, the creative director, presented the brand’s Spring 2022 ready-to-wear collection via an eight-minute runway film staged at St. Ann’s Court, a country estate in Surrey. 

Male and female models snaked down a spiral staircase and stomped through the white-washed estate wearing bright, bold colors reminiscent of the bougainvillea and magnolias growing against the backdrop.  

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

A post shared by QASIMI (@qasimi_official)

The collection opened with vivid pink trousers worn with a matching cape with a built-in bucket hat, which set the tone for the fringed skirts, boxy shirts with laser-cut designs, jacquard button-ups, bomber jackets and graphic T-shirts and hoodies that spelled the words “Longing” and “Belonging” in Arabic and English, that followed. 

Some of the models carried fringed bags made using the traditional Emirati craft of palm frond weaving known as safeefah.

Al-Qasimi weaved her heritage into the new offering by collaborating with the Sharjah-based  Irthi Contemporary Crafts Council – a platform that empowers women artisans and preserves the skills and rich cultural heritage of the UAE.

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

A post shared by QASIMI (@qasimi_official)

She also tasked Lahore-based jeweler Zohra Rahman with creating a round, multi-functional embellishment that functioned as a brooch, a pendant and an earring in the show.

Meanwhile, tarboushas – the tassels that hang from the Emirati gutra – swung from the front pockets of tailored jackets, the bottoms of small bags and the necks of shirt dresses.

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

A post shared by QASIMI (@qasimi_official)

The new collection is Al-Qasimi’s fourth for the London-based brand since taking over the reins after her twin brother Khalid Al-Qasimi’s passing in 2019.

Qasimi, which was founded in 2015, focuses on crafting understated garments that reflect its multicultural origins.


Actress Jameela Jamil champions Moroccan label in ‘Legendary’ finale

Actress Jameela Jamil champions Moroccan label in ‘Legendary’ finale
Jamil is one of the judges on the HBO Max competition series. File/AFP
Updated 13 June 2021

Actress Jameela Jamil champions Moroccan label in ‘Legendary’ finale

Actress Jameela Jamil champions Moroccan label in ‘Legendary’ finale

DUBAI: Jameela Jamil has a well-known penchant for Arab designers. The British-Pakistani-Indian actress and activist has been pictured donning looks from regional labels on plenty of occasions, including designs by Rami Kadi and Georges Chakra, to name a few.

This week, the actress, who is known for her role as Tahani on NBC’s “The Good Life,” was spotted wearing a ballgown by Moroccan-Dutch couturier Benchellal  in the finale episode of “Legendary.”

The 35-year-old posted a series of snaps on Instagram of herself on set dressed in an extravagant royal blue dress with  long sleeves and voluminous shoulders. She paired the look with sparkling fishnet boots from Jimmy Choo.

Mo Benchellal launched his namesake couture womenswear label in 2007 and has since made a name for himself with his elegant and classic eveningwear, which has also been worn by popstar Camilla Cabello and supermodel Helena Christensen, to name a few.


Birthday wishes pour in for model Nora Attal

Birthday wishes pour in for model Nora Attal
British-Moroccan model Nora Attal celebrated her birthday Saturday. Getty Images
Updated 13 June 2021

Birthday wishes pour in for model Nora Attal

Birthday wishes pour in for model Nora Attal

DUBAI:  Saturday marked British-Moroccan model Nora Attal’s birthday — and she certainly has a lot to celebrate. Though Attal just turned 22, she has already achieved many career milestones that most models can only dream of. 

Attal, who was born to Moroccan parents in London, was first discovered by Jonathan Anderson, founder of the J.W. Anderson label, and shot a campaign for the British fashion house in 2014 before she had even taken her first steps down a runway.

She would go on to become a runway fixture after making her catwalk debut in 2017. 

Based in London and signed to Viva Model Management, Attal has worked with a number of renowned designers and stylists and walked the runway for major fashion houses, including Dior, Fendi, Burberry and Valentino to name a few. 

She also strutted her stuff on a runway in the south of France for Chanel’s resort 2022 show last month.

On Instagram, birthday wishes poured in from Attal’s loved ones. Instagram

When she’s not turning heads on the catwalk, Attal can be found gracing the pages of prestigious magazines such as the American, Arab and British editions of Vogue, in addition to fronting campaigns for renowned fashion brands such as Loewe, Chanel and Alexander McQueen. 

The newly-minted 22-year-old also uses her massive platform for good, often taking to Instagram to voice her support for important social issues such as the Black Lives Matter movement and countering violence against the Asian community in the US and UK. 

“Happy birthday,” wrote fellow model Luna Bijl, alongside a backstage shot of her and Attal.

“Happiest birthday,” wrote model Camille Hurel. Instagram

Runway model Camille Hurel posted a throwback of Attal from 2019 and wrote: “Happiest birthday,” alongside a blue heart emoji.

Attal spent her 22nd birthday with her fiancé, cinematographer Victor Bastidas, in Paris.

The couple announced their engagement in October 2020.

Captioning a series of images of the proposal on Instagram, the model told her 48,000 followers: “Forever my life partner... @sictor.”

The proposal took place on a beach in Formentera, an island in Spain. Among the pictures the bride-to-be shared, Attal showed off her engagement ring — a round-cut solitaire.


Plans for movie on New Zealand mosque attacks draw criticism

Hollywood news outlet Deadline reported that Australian actor Rose Byrne (L) was set to play Ardern, with New Zealander Andrew Niccol (R) writing and directing. (AP/File Photos)
Hollywood news outlet Deadline reported that Australian actor Rose Byrne (L) was set to play Ardern, with New Zealander Andrew Niccol (R) writing and directing. (AP/File Photos)
Updated 12 June 2021

Plans for movie on New Zealand mosque attacks draw criticism

Hollywood news outlet Deadline reported that Australian actor Rose Byrne (L) was set to play Ardern, with New Zealander Andrew Niccol (R) writing and directing. (AP/File Photos)
  • The movie would be set in the days after the 2019 attacks in which 51 people were killed at two Christchurch mosques

WELLINGTON: Tentative plans for a movie that recounts the response of Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern to a gunman's slaughter of Muslim worshippers drew criticism in New Zealand on Friday for not focusing on the victims of the attacks.
Hollywood news outlet Deadline reported that Australian actor Rose Byrne was set to play Ardern in the movie “They Are Us,” which was being shopped by New York-based FilmNation Entertainment to international buyers.
The movie would be set in the days after the 2019 attacks in which 51 people were killed at two Christchurch mosques.
Deadline said the movie would follow Ardern's response to the attacks and how people rallied behind her message of compassion and unity, and her successful call to ban the deadliest types of semiautomatic weapons.
The title of the movie comes from the words Ardern spoke in a landmark address soon after the attacks. At the time, Ardern was praised around the world for her response.
But many in New Zealand are raising concerns about the movie plans.
Aya Al-Umari, whose older brother Hussein was killed in the attacks, wrote on Twitter simply “Yeah nah,” a New Zealand phrase meaning “No.”
Abdigani Ali, a spokesperson for the Muslim Association of Canterbury, said the community recognized the story of the attacks needed to be told “but we would want to ensure that it’s done in an appropriate, authentic, and sensitive matter.”
Tina Ngata, an author and advocate, was more blunt, tweeting that the slaughter of Muslims should not be the backdrop for a film about "white woman strength. COME ON.”
Ardern’s office said in a brief statement that the prime minister and her government have no involvement with the movie.
Deadline reported that New Zealander Andrew Niccol would write and direct the project and that the script was developed in consultation with several members of the mosques affected by the tragedy.
Niccol said the film wasn't so much about the attacks but more the response.
“The film addresses our common humanity, which is why I think it will speak to people around the world," Niccol told Deadline. "It is an example of how we should respond when there’s an attack on our fellow human beings.”
Byrne's agents and FilmNation did not immediately respond to requests for comment. The report said the project would be filmed in New Zealand but did not say when.
Niccol is known for writing and directing “Gattaca” and writing “The Terminal" and “The Truman Show,” for which he was nominated for an Oscar.
Byrne is known for roles in “Spy” and “Bridesmaids.”