A lone ranger trying to save a dying art

DUBAI — Calligraphy is a dying art in India. This beautiful form of writing, which reached its zenith with etchings on marble along the walls of Taj Mahal, is now finding few patrons and fewer practitioners. But there are a handful of those who have not given up just as yet. Mohammad Muqtar Ahmad is one of them.

By Ehtesham Shahid

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Published: Sun 9 Apr 2006, 11:00 AM

Last updated: Sat 4 Apr 2015, 5:50 PM

Muqtar represents the dying breed of calligraphers who is struggling to make a living as well as reviving the art form. He is in Dubai these days attending the International Typography and Calligraphy Conference, being organised by the American University of Dubai.

"An effort is being made here to bring Calligraphy and Typography closer. This is the first such initiative at such a large scale and it will go a long way in promoting the art at all levels," said Muqtar yesterday.

Muqtar, the 37-year-old father of three, who was born in Medak district of Andhra Pradesh, India, had a very humble beginning. His father was a farmer and Muqtar had no one in the family who could support his passion. He worked as a khattat (calligrapher) in an Urdu newspaper in Bangalore before sudden spate of computerisation put paid to his dreams. He lost his job and had to rely upon odd assignments to make a living.

Today, Muqtar has a unique feat to his credit. Mamoun Sakkal, a Washington-based Calligraphy design centre, is launching a new font named after him. Germany-based Linotype and UAE-based Diwan Software are working to give final shape to this font, which will be called ‘Muqtar Sakkal’.

For Muqtar, this Dubai visit is proving to be fruitful in more ways than one. "Despite making my mark, I never stopped learning. I have been getting training from people I had never met, especially Calligraphy experts based in Washington and London. I have met them all here in the last two days. I am conducting a workshop with one of them, Mohammad Zakariya of Zakariya Calligraphy, Arlington, UK."

Muqtar was beaming at the prospect. He has got similar invitations from US-based institutes and would soon embark on a new journey.

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