358: The write stuff / rightly stuffed (Thursday 7 October 2004)

compiled by Elaine Cronin.

The first international calligraphy exhibition titled 'Culture and Calligraphy' at Alhamra Art Centre. Image held here .

For those of you who are returning for another year of art college, despairing of those rehashed projects set by controlling department heads, or perhaps concerned that your self-initiated work will be 'misunderstood' as rubbish by personal tutors, bear in mind that at the very least, you're not being forced to study calligraphy by the government. In Pakistan this week, Khalid Maqbool, the Punjab governor, announced that the government is to make calligraphy a compulsory subject in all art institutions in the country.
This is in a society where censorship is a huge issue for artists, and where, even in the largest university in the country, in Karachi, it was only in the last few years allowed to give courses for selected fine-arts disciplines, including textile design, film production and architecture. And even last December an exhibition of work by the art students was physically attacked by a right-wing band of students claiming the art, some containing music, was offensive to the country's Islamic ideology. Chairman of the student wing of leading religious party, Jamaat-e-Islami, Noman Ahmed denied they were involved, yet implicitly backed the actions of 'religiously minded' students who carried out the attack.
We should promote Islamic arts such as calligraphy. Music, sculpture, or videos...should have no place here. We brought the issue to the notice of the registrar, but he took no action.

The promotion of certain artistic practices by Government is something which might be admirable in other circumstances - but the forcing of traditional arts upon students seems far more politically driven than a mere show of concern toward "the growing interest of people in calligraphy."

The Punjab govenor made the announcement while addressing visitors to the first international calligraphy exhibition titled 'Culture and Calligraphy', where he also gave out cash prizes to participants - the third prize of US$500 was bagged by Pakistan. It seems Ireland's students didn't feature - perhaps Bertie ought to do something about it?

Sources: DailyTimes ; Yahoo .