Kufi was the first Arabic script to be consciously made beautiful. Unlike later scripts characterized by strict formal rules, it lends itself to being constantly reinvented, so that it thrives on the same creative freedom that animated the first calligraphers. Joumana Medlej learned to work with Kufi through years of apprenticeship with renowned Lebanese calligrapher Samir Sayegh, and has put together an original course to transmit this material. The aim of the course in returning to Kufi is to guide students towards finding their own approach to the art of Arabic calligraphy.
Each session consists of both a theoretical and practical component: Joumana begins each class with a study of individual letters (their form and symbolism) and of notions of design relevant to the script. The practical component is a creative exercise that allows students to both learn and feel their way into the essence of the script. The last session of the course is dedicated to creating a final, personal project and to this end will take place on a Sunday afternoon so there is ample time to complete it.
All materials for the course are provided, including basic materials for the final project, which students can choose to supplement with their own. Knowledge of Arabic is not required. As the script is mostly constructed, not freehand, drawing skills are not essential.
With the aid of charts provided by Joumana, the Letter Study takes a closer look at each letterform of the Arabic script and how it can be changed without being lost. The symbolism and folklore surrounding each letter are also introduced where applicable.
The Notions of Design teach students how to deconstruct, manipulate and reconstruct the letters. Students will cover proportions, connections, kashida (expansion), traditional use of symmetry, square Kufi, ornamentation, and how to design one’s own script.
The Creative Exercise requires the students to practice hands-on the design notions of the day. At the end of the class, this work is put up for display and discussion so that students can learn from each other and from the diversity of the result.
Joumana was born and raised in Beirut, Lebanon. A graphic designer by training, she learned the essence of Kufi script, the oldest form of Arabic, from master calligrapher Samir Sayegh, through years of close collaboration. She learned to breathe new life into a traditional art, not merely copying or reviving its old forms but finding a contemporary language for it. She is especially interested in the unique relationship between Kufi and geometry, both sacred arts. She now lives in London where her study of these fields is ongoing.