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EVOLUTION OF ISLAMIC WALL ART

Are you searching for Muslim wall art? This doesn’t come as a surprise since Islamic art wall décor is really an unmatched tradition in which passages from the Quran are written, painted, printed or engraved in calligraphic style on walls of monuments, buildings and residences.

The main feature of Muslim wall art is Arabic calligraphy, which got a life after the advent of Islam in Arabia. As Islam disallows imagery of humans and animals, the walls of monuments were filled with passages from the Quran carved out in calligraphy.

Calligraphy, the English word for beautiful handwriting, became the main type of wall art in Muslim-rule territories, from the Ottoman empire in the west to the Mughal dynasty in the east. From the Sultan Ahmet Mosque in Istanbul, Turkey, to the Taj Mahal in Agra, India, Islamic architecture is incomplete without Arabic calligraphy.

It also came as a boon to calligraphers that the Arabic script is itself perfectly to their art. Its loops, curves, dots, and diacritical marks which can be deftly moved about to create a handwritten masterpiece. Individual letters can be reduced to less than half their size and joined smoothly with other letters.

As Muslims conquered and settled far and wide, across Asia, North Africa and parts of southern Europe, they employed well-trained artists to make Arabic calligraphy for monuments, palaces and buildings. The artists would also paint/engrave/sew/etch text on handicrafts, like ceramics, wooden artefacts and wall carpets, besides being hired to write down documents of the royal courts.

Over time, each region devises its own font of Arabic calligraphy. The straight, angular Kufic font came about in Kufa, Iraq; the ornate, elaborate and intricate Diwani calligraphy took off in Istanbul, Turkey; the figurative Tughra school of writing thrived in Lucknow, a city in northern India.

As Islamic empires were defeated by European imperialists, Arabic calligraphy received a temporary setback, but made a comeback when new nations won freedom.

There has been a recent spurt in interest in Arabic calligraphy partly due to its abundant availability on e-commerce platforms. From historical buildings, Arabic calligraphy can now be seen in modern, minimal spaces. On account of digital technology, the rising incomes and lifestyle budgets of people, and globalisation-fuelled exposure, Arabic calligraphy art has made a comeback of sorts in the form of ‘Muslim wall art’. Now, there are many online stores from where one can buy Islamic art wall décor in the form of economical wall decals, premium colourful digital prints on canvas and paper, and metallic frames. Young artists and curators now promote their works of art on Instagram, and other social media platforms, often create customised pieces for patrons.

English translations are now also increasingly becoming a part of Islamic art wall décor as Arabic is not the mother tongue of some 80 per cent of the world’s Muslims. This inclusion of English in Muslim wall art is therefore quite a significant development. The world of Islamic calligraphy art is clearly experiencing very interesting and significant developments.