Saturday, 31 March 2012

Calligraphy at Left Bank

Simon Hall writes:
What is the relationship between the spoken and the written word? What is the relationship between the written word and the way we write it? These questions were bubbling under the surface as I picked up a piece of wood shaped into a primitive nib and tried to make a shape approximating to an Arabic letter. I was sharing a table with a very diverse group of punters - all complete novices - as we tried to get our minds and hands round the ancient practice of drawing words.

What made this particular session remarkable - in addition to the beautiful surroundings of Left Bank - was that the art was being done with a unique purpose. Gillian Holding is Jewish and local and Iman Meghraoua is an Eastern European Muslim, but they came together not just to teach calligraphy, but to demonstrate the common origins of Hebrew and Arabic script. If we share a script, can we not share our lives, they asked wordlessly as they gave unceasing encouragement to our group of faltering amateurs. As we hamfistedly tried to make beauty from the most basic of instruments we were being shown how much the romantic, flowing Arabic script has in the common with its precise - almost digitally precise - Hebrew sibling.

Just a few hours earlier, Gillian and Iman had welcomed young people from their own communities to share together and create huge collages of script to be taken to Israel/Palestine as a sign of peace and reconciliation. We, too, were able to make our own tiny contribution to the work. It felt hopelessly inept, tiny and insignificant, and yet here were two people from communities who are supposed to be at war with each other asking us to play our part. How could we refuse?

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