Ancient Al Muhaqqaq Script Stars at Sharjah Calligraphy Museum Exhibition

Collection highlights revival of Al Muhaqqaq script by master calligraphers Dr. Nassar Mansour and Sir Mark Allen.  

SHARJAH, October 30, 2017:  Sharjah Calligraphy Museum today unveiled a new exhibition featuring works of art crafted by two calligraphers.

‘From the Heart to the Pen’ is a collection of 34 religious texts, sayings and lines of poetry composed by the influential Jordanian academic and artist Dr. Nassar Mansour and his British student, Sir Mark Allen.

Many of the pieces provide examples of Al Muhaqqaq script, a form of 11th century Islamic calligraphy that declined in use over the centuries until it was restored to its glorious past thanks to the work of Dr. Nassar and Sir Mark.

Running at Sharjah Calligraphy Museum from October 30 to December 30, 2017, the exhibition provides a unique opportunity to witness the intricate work of two experts in their field, as well as appreciate the revival of a script once thought lost forever.

Manal Ataya, Director General of Sharjah Museums Authority, said: “It gives me great pleasure to announce the opening of ‘From the Heart to the Pen’at Sharjah Calligraphy Museum. The collection is truly breathtaking, both in terms of its visual appeal and its relevance to the art of Islamic calligraphy.

“On behalf of Sharjah Museums Authority, we thank Dr. Nassar Mansour and Sir Mark Allen wholeheartedly for their dedication to reviving Al Muhaqqaq script and for sharing these beautiful pieces of art with our community.

“This exhibition demonstrates the vital role played by museums in inspiring visitors from the UAE and around the world and encouraging them to learn about key aspects of the Islamic world’s art and heritage.”

‘From the Heart to the Pen’ presents diverse works comprising religious texts, poetic traditional quotations and sayings mostly composed in Al Muhaqqaq script, but featuring other scripts such as Al Thuluth Al Jaly, and Al Kufi Al Murabba’a. Many are crafted with ink and gold on burnished paper or cardboard.

The exhibition reveals the contrasting fortunes of Al Muhaqqaq script over the centuries, especially its declining use after the death of Ahmed Karahisari, the last master of the script, some 470 years ago.

“The art of calligraphy flows and pulses with love. It is formed by the pen in the shape of letters and set in beautiful structures and sublime meanings,” said Dr. Mansour.

“It is pure art and emotion, captured in the written form for all to see and appreciate.”

The idea for the exhibition’s title was inspired by a well-known statement by Ibn Al Muqafa’a who said: ‘the post of the heart is known by the title and seen without sight’,” revealed Sir Mark Allen.

“Calligraphy is a beautiful art form. It must come from the heart otherwise it will be shallow and will fail to penetrate into the conscience of the reader,” he said.

Dr. Nassar Mansour, who is regarded as one of the most influential calligraphers in the Arab world, played a key role in reviving the script. The academic paper he submitted to receive a PhD in 2006 included a study on the origins, development and schools of Al Muhaqqaq.

Born in Jordan in 1967, Dr. Nassar is an Associate Professor of Islamic Calligraphy and Qura’nic Manuscripts and a member of The Islamic Manuscript Association (TIMA), Cambridge, UK. He has written and published many academic papers and two books on calligraphy. He is currently a lecturer in Islamic Art History, Art of Islamic Calligraphy and Qur’anic manuscripts at the Institute of Islamic Arts and Architecture at The World Islamic Sciences and Education University (W.I.S.E), Amman.

Dr. Nassar’s art works can be found in the permanent collections of many national museums, such as The British Museum, The Contemporary Museum of Calligraphy in Moscow, The Aga Khan Museum in Toronto, and The Jordan National Gallery of Fine Arts in Amman.

Sir Mark Allen was born in England in 1950. He studied Arabic and Turkish at Exeter College, Oxford and worked in the British Foreign Service between 1973-2004, with postings in Abu Dhabi, Cairo, Belgrade and Amman.

In the late 1970s in Cairo, his tutor in Qur’anic studies taught him to appreciate the six classical Arabic scripts. He continued his interest through private study in London until in 2006 when he was introduced to Dr. Nassar who, since then, has been his teacher. Sir Mark has written four books on religious and Middle Eastern topics and has edited and written an introduction to Dr. Nassar’s study of Al Muhaqqaq, ‘Sacred Script’, published in 2011.

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