Meet Jamal Hussein, The Iraqi Artist Who Dreams of Reviving Arabic Calligraphy

Straight out of Iraq, Jamal Hussein dedicates his time to conserving the art of Arabic calligraphy. Hussein has been practicing since 1980, gaining experience, participating in competitions, and piling up certificates. Despite the lack of support from the Iraqi government to promote the art of calligraphy, and knowing he can’t make a living from his art, Hussein can’t desert Arabic calligraphy.

Hussein is a construction worker by day and an artist by night. The 50-year-old, father of 11 works with a reed pen, which he gets from Turkey or Iran. Being an ambitious dreamer, he wishes to travel to Egypt or Turkey to practice calligraphy and improve.

His work in Arabic calligraphy won him around 40 medals and certificates, which he displays at his own home. Moreover, just this October, Huessin came in second in an Egyptian online competition. Currently, he’s training for a new contest in Iraq.

While the artist sometimes makes money selling posters, making shop displays and writing on tombstones, he realizes that “you can’t live on this.” Hussein said, “I have a big family. I have to find other work.”

Hussein’s home workshop. – Via Times of Malta.

Jamal Hussein on calligraphy

“Because of technology, the sanctity of calligraphy has declined,” Hussein said. “Calligraphy requires more time, more effort and is more costly. People are moving towards cheaper technological production.”

However, there is progress happening in the Arab world to revive the art of Arabic calligraphy. There’s a calligraphy campaign led by Saudi Arabia. Furthermore, the Saudi government declared the years 2020 and 2021 are the “Year of Arabic Calligraphy”.

The Arabic calligraphy campaign was promoted by 16 Arabic-speaking countries including Iraq, Egypt and Palestine. Additionally, the United Nations culture agency stated that Arabic calligraphy is an “Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity.”

Hussein has hopes that those initiatives will push “the Iraqi government and the autonomous Kurdistan region to adopt serious measures” to support calligraphy and its artists.

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