We were looking at a figure of 30 participants or optimally, 25 at its maximum. Personally 15, is the best figure. However, of course Esplanade would like to cover even more participants if it could. In the past 2 years (2012-2013), our free open workshop-cum-trial booth for Arabic calligraphy has been a successful hit of an estimated 500 over participants over 3 days within limited hours. Since it was an open session, we had participants rooted to their seats for more than 3 hours, some stood around for a good 40 minutes, some dropped by for quick minutes of trials, some just picked up a handful of worksheets for their family and friends, and some passed by and passed by again. It was fantastic. We met artists, teachers, tourists, not to mentioned, religious people and few calligraphers themselves apart from the locals. Fellow calligraphy enthusiasts hanged around having fun with pen and ink and crafting letters. This year, Esplanade decided to have a closed session under its Bitesize programme. For a session of only 2 hours, we truly hope we could give the best.
So they opened it up for 50 maximum participants on tickets. Within the first month out of the 3-month publicity, they called us to spread more words on this programme cause they managed only to hit around 20. We felt that it was good enough to keep that way as we were concerned on managing and giving a substantial amount of attention to the participants individually and as a whole. We had booklets, worksheets and visual slides all prepared. In less than half month before the event, we hit 50. Full house.
Our hope for extension of hours could probably give more fruitful attention to the participants. That didn’t happen. The space provided was in a rehearsal studio, full of tall-glass-wall windows, at the top-most of the building, giving a cosmic feel to practicing calligraphy. Probably, a dream of every calligrapher to afford that kind of (expensive) atmosphere to have an intimate session with the pen crafting sacred verses. But in real history, calligraphers danced their hearts through their pen and ink, crouching solemnly in a quiet corner of walls full of books, away from people, away from the world. Then, the teacher attended to students one at a time. But here, its a duty to share and uphold it to the public.
We hoped for a better projection on our visual lesson slides to amplify the content to participants spread out to about over two basketball courts of space. We could see how much a participant yearned to feel the pen during the demonstration where 49 others crowded over one person demonstrating letters over a piece of A3 paper. And if we could, we would love to be able to equally attend to at least 10 individual participants at a time whenever they raised their hands for help and questions. One hour of theoretical history and visual lessons, and one hour of practice. Unfortunately, but fortunately, that’s all we could afford.
Learning calligraphy doesn’t work like technical software crash courses. Most of fresh students we knew, could never get over understanding the pen and its first dot even over their first two weeks practice. Nowadays, the culture of clicking and sliding with fingers is more overwhelming than the art and grace of handling pen and letters. Time spent for economical productivity is different from time spent for spiritual productivity. Nevertheless, the people in Esplanade has created great efforts to support traditional arts such as calligraphy for the betterment of the society.
Be it a dot, or long strokes, we hope this effort would be a blessing to everyone. Thank you for acknowledging our presence. We hope to see you all again.