Powerful Message In Refugee's Intricate Art
Sayed Ali Karam Jawhary exhibition: The Reed Pen’s Tale Continues: To be one in heart
27 March-17 April, 2020, Depot Artspace, 28 Clarence St, Devonport, Auckland
“Listen to the reed and the tale
how it sings of separation:
Ever since they
cut me from the reed bed,
my wail has caused men and women to weep”
Song of the Reed, by Mawlana Jaluldeen Rumi*
The Reed Pen's Tale Continues is Afghanistan-born calligraphy artist Sayed Ali Karam Jawhary's second exhibition in New Zealand, and will feature eight distinctive Persian calligraphic works.
With the first anniversary of the Christchurch mosque attacks just days before his exhibition opens in Auckland, Ali's works present a particular poignancy, and a chance to pause and reflect.
The subject matter of his work is varied, combining personal experience with philosophy. It’s a conscious effort to choose beauty over suffering, by finding solace in the work of ancient and contemporary Persian writers. For those unfamiliar with Persian calligraphy, at first glance Ali’s work resembles something from another era. And it literally is.
Persian calligraphy is a unique art form established around the 7th century, and ancient Persian script is believed to have originated around 500-600 BC*. Ali uses Nastalīq and Shikasta Nastalīq styles of calligraphy. He is a master calligrapher, having practised the art for 37 years. For him, art is a universal language, a sacred refuge that transcends culture and travail. His works draw inspiration from the words and philosophy of Persian poets of old, such as Mawlana Jaluldeen Balkhi Rumi, Hafiz, Saadi and Omar Khayyam, as well as world renowned classical musicians Mohammad-Reza Shahjarian and Ustad Sarahang.
“Calligraphy and poetry are very closely related,” he says. “I like poetry, so calligraphy is the best way to learn how to express how I feel. I try to tell my story and match it to a poem that is similar to my story."
Ali uses hand-carved bamboo calligraphy pens to create his unique art, depicting Persian script and symbols. His use of Persian calligraphy demonstrates the intrinsic diversity in art, and invites viewers to connect with an ancient art form - an often visceral connection.
When he was only 15, Ali was forced to flee his home country of Afghanistan and take refuge in neighbouring Iran, where he lived for many years and became a professional sign writer and calligrapher. He also learned about the best calligraphers, read books and visited exhibitions, which challenged him to develop his artistic practice. He became involved with a group of artists who exhibited their works in a gallery in Qum city, and also taught calligraphy to students at a private school.
In 2013, Ali came to live in New Zealand under the family reunification programme for refugees, followed by his son. They were reunited with Ali’s brother, who was already settled in Auckland, and their family was the first helped by the Auckland Refugee Family Trust, which raises money for airfares to bring the families of refugees to New Zealand. The trust has since helped reunite more than 60 families.
Two years ago, Ali fulfilled his dream to introduce New Zealanders to Persian calligraphy and staged his first exhibition at the Depot Artspace in Devonport. This exhibition offers Ali another opportunity to share more of his unique art.
“Everyone has feelings - how they feel and think about life and love - but this calligraphy is the way I tell people how I feel,” he says. “I think this the reason most calligraphers do it.”
Ali is again receiving support to prepare for his exhibition from a team comprising representatives from Art for Change, New Zealand Red Cross and Auckland Refugee Family Trust. A givealittle fundraising page has been set up for those who would like to help Ali with the cost of framing his works:
The Reed Pen’s Tale Continues runs at the Feature Wall, Depot Artspace, 28 Clarence St, Devonport, from March 27 - April 17, 2020.