Waiting for Friday to end, I was looking forward to my very own play-space in the world of alphabets. This is the second time I’m running a public workshop on Arabic calligraphy at Esplanade. Last year in 2012, my debut was a fresh scene apart from usual classes scene, roadshows or showcases that I’ve done with various organisations. At Esplanade, this festival “Tapestry of Sacred Music” is like a cross-celebration of arts and cultural performances. There are music, visuals, displays, and variety of textures and depths of showmanships; from mysticism, to stoicism, to romanticism and even things with elements that raises the eyebrows or could harmonise some giggles. Gratefully, I am part of this. The flow of people were mostly tourists and local visitors from all walks of life.
So what happen in my workshop? It is an open public workshop, free and easy participation, where anyone can just walk in, grab some calligraphy worksheets, pick some tools, follow some instructions and they are ready to try calligraphy on their own. So my duty is to go around guiding them here and there, or sometimes standing in the centre telling calligraphy tales. However, it has always been the most interesting when the activity leads the participants to write their own name in Arabic calligraphy. Regardless whatever race, language, religion and origin, such moment seems to be a transit point to a universal conversation filled with unveiled wonders and discoveries crossing cultures.
Last year, I encountered various interesting people with different textures of presence, different depths and different appeal. It’s quite difficult to explain how interesting it is to get engaged with these people, by which their characters starts to appear when they are making attempts to connect themselves with calligraphy. This is what I usually observed. I remembered little Korean girls, a young Taiwanese gentleman, a mid-50 Singaporean Tai-Tai Aunty, a group of middle-age Australian ladies, some different elderly gentlemen from different parts of Europe, some very uncommon locals, couples that come in highly-contrasted language or skin colours, and many other different mixes of audience or groups of people. Adding to this, yes, a pack of friends makes the company feels good.
This year, the content of the programme gets a little more interesting. First, I added some geometric art excersises in the worksheets; second, I got a blackboard to demonstrate giant size calligraphy. Starting off in Saturday (first day) mid afternoon, I faced one of my best audience I could have. I shared a good amount of calligraphy tales comprising from origins, history, discipline, arts, culture and social values and to demonstrating different scripts and different calculations on the blackboard. Feeling truly amazing, I’m thankful for the blackboard which is indeed my favourite visualiser. The old teaching aid of using chalks, helps me to express not only words or drawings, but also different forms of calligraphy expressions with ability to enlarge details for anatomical studies.
Happy to see some friends supporting this event and most exciting of all, I met Persian calligraphers based in Singapore. It was like, wow. Yes, I am also a fan of any other calligraphers. The husband-and-wife Persian calligraphers wrote their names on the worksheets in beautiful Nastaliq scripts, and definitely, I got them to write mine too. They enquired on calligraphy classes in Singapore, and I felt that they were looking for a kind of club for them to join or continuing their hobby. Meeting them and exchanging scripts, felt like exchanging cocktails of different colours and energies.
I meet other interesting people too. Yes, again. I love it again. The music that filled the ambience was truly complementing the mood of calligraphy practice for the participants. There is a girl that’s half-Chinese, half-Persian; a couple made of half-Malay, half-Nepalese, a Chinese man who kept asking me about religious translations and transcriptions, one Makcik (a Malay aunty) who tried hard to justify the different usage of scripts between cultural and religious use, the shy and colourful behavior of European kids, and plenty of other funny, weird, enthusiastic, energetic people. In fact, facing all these mix together truly enthralled me.
So for last year, this calligraphy sessions were conducted in 3 days. While this year is only 2 days. In all, I’m very grateful and happy to perform at Esplanade and to share these calligraphy session with the public. Unfortunately, it was quite difficult for me to grab some photos of these sessions on my own. Nevertheless, I would like to say thank you to Mr Xianghui Tan of Esplanade for allowing this opportunity, Mr Muhammad of Sembawang CC for the precious blackboard, Mr Remy Mahzam of MVAC for his moral support and presence, and plenty of other calligraphy buddies like Nor Iskandar Rahman, Zuraidah Ehsan and many other beautiful people that make up such an interesting concoction to soak all the alphabets together.
Till then, for those who have attended to this workshop of mine I hope you’ve enjoyed your time getting to know calligraphy a little better, and to learn yourself a little more. And if the world permits, we’ll see again next time!