Hamda Al Hashemi, a 22-year-old interior design graduate, is meticulous about her hobby. To do it, she must lock herself in a quiet room where she is free of any distractions.
For the past year, Al Hashemi has been learning the art of calligraphy after mastering the basics at a course run by Wissam Shawkat, one of the region’s most respected calligraphists, at a Dubai gallery.
“His method of teaching is different to any other method of teaching,” she says. “Usually you learn the rules; there are rules about dimensions of each letter that you have to practice and master before you start writing words. He taught us how to draw the shapes, rather than concentrate on the rules.”
Al Hashemi began by learning the diwani style of calligraphy, which used to be used to write royal decrees. The harder form is thuluth, which she expects will take her another few decades to grasp.
“Calligraphy is an entire school in itself. The diwani is more decorative and you can create logos. The thuluth is fixed, you can’t play around with it. I can do it, but if I got an expert to look, he would know I was a beginner. Wissam told us it took him 23 years to perfect it.”
Al Hashemi is using her calligraphy in a special project currently underway at the Dubai Outlet Mall. Her reputation has also landed contracts to create logos using the ancient art.
“I recently did some art work in Dubai Healthcare City and they wanted things related to the UAE, so I took a poem by Sheikh Rashid and I worked it into a composition. ”
She uses Instagram to share her work with her friends and fans.
“I want to start my own furnishing company and integrating the calligraphy into the work, either wood or acrylic. I haven’t had the time yet because I’m getting married next May, but once I’m married I’d like to start on it.”
What’s your favourite food?
Cheese Cheetos and margherita pizza. You can’t go wrong with a thin-crust margherita – you can eat all you want and never feel full.
Who’s your favourite artist?
Abdul Qader Al Raes. He’s not a calligraphist, but he’s an Emirati artist. He was one of the first Emirati artists. He learnt in Kuwait and his paintings focus on the UAE environment and heritage. His signature on his work is the dot used in calligraphy and his paintings have been sold at Christie’s. They are beautiful. I also like eL Seed, a Tunisian. His calligraphy isn’t traditional – he does graffiti. He has his own style and he’s known worldwide.
Favourite place to travel?
I’ve been going to Australia for the past seven years because my dad has been working there. I really enjoy Sydney [above]. One of the most beautiful places I’ve been is Austria, and I dream of going to Italy.
How do you relax?
My aunt has a farm in Al Dhaid and I love it. And I love going to the beach when the weather is nice. We also stay at a family home on Ghurab island in Abu Dhabi. It’s private; it’s disconnected from the world.
Favourite art gallery?
I really like the Ara Gallery [in Dubai] – it gets interesting artists and it does a lot of workshops. There’s also a gallery in Harrods in London that I like, and the Museum of Islamic Art in Qatar.
Rose d’Arabie from the Armani/Privé collection.
What is your favourite book?
I don’t read novels or stories. I like to read self-improvement and psychology books. One of my favourite is Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking, by Susan Cain. I like learning about personality types. I consider myself an introvert, that’s why I like this book.
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