JEDDAH: Sharbatly House Museum in Historic Jeddah is currently hosting an exhibition celebrating the work of the renowned Saudi artist and calligrapher Mohammad Salem Bajnaid.
The show is part of Saudi Arabia’s Year of Arabic Calligraphy, launched by the Ministry of Culture with the support of the Quality of Life Program.
Bajnaid, who died in October 2019, was widely recognized as one of the most talented calligraphers in the Arab and Islamic world. He contributed to the design and embroidery of the Kiswah — the cloth that is draped over the Kaaba in Makkah on the day that pilgrims leave for Mount Arafat during the Hajj — and was also the creator of the Kingdom’s gift to the United Nations for its headquarters in New York in 1982.
The new exhibition in Jeddah runs until December and features 21 works from throughout Bajnaid’s career, some of which are Quranic verses and prophetic hadiths. The show is split into four main areas: The Ancient House, Family bonds, Knowledge, and Patience. It has been curated by the artist’s grandson, Salem Fouzi Bajnaid, who told Arab News: “The credit behind all the efforts in setting up this event goes to (the artist’s) family and friends, in cooperation with the ministry of culture. We’ve witnessed such an amazing response on the first few days, with art admirers from everywhere coming to appreciate the work being displayed here.”
Salem led visitors on a tour of the exhibition, explaining that calligraphy is an integral part of Arab culture, and adding that he hopes this show will help preserve it and pass it on to future generations.
Dutch artist Al-Jawhara told Arab News she had visited the exhibition on its opening day. “I have never seen any of his work before,” she said. “I was surprised by the intricacy and detail of his exquisite calligraphic work. One just cannot move on to the next piece without praising the previous one.”
Saleh Bogari, former chairman of the House of Artists, expressed his admiration for the “amazing and wonderful” pieces on display, noting that Bajnaid used Thuluth — widely considered to be the most challenging of Islamic calligraphy’s traditional scripts — for his work, but managed to establish his own “unique style.” “It is really a wonderfully fine (exhibition),” he said.