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A photo by Shirin Neshat. It is a close up of a woman wearing a black headscarf. Her eyes are looking straight into the camera, and her face is covered in Arabic calligraphy.

February – Week 4 – Calligraffiti and the Power of Art

I’m not going to sugarcoat this. This past week fucking sucked. It is infuriating beyond my comprehension that one man’s fragile ego can lead to so much destruction. Massive corrupt systems I can understand, but I thought we had moved past the point where one madman is all it takes to start a war. But here we are. Again. Apparently we as a species are incapable of learning from history.

If I’m being honest, I couldn’t have cared less about the Daily Hart this past week. It all suddenly seemed very trivial. Just a silly little art project. But I had started off the week with the discovery of a new term. Calligraffiti. It was really interesting, and the artists I had begun looking at were all really cool. So I decided to keep going. Even if only for five minutes a day. And you know what? I’m happy I did.

I’m happy because I discovered artists like El Seed, a French-Tunisian artist who uses Arabic calligraphy to break down stereotypes and promote messages of peace, unity, and the commonality of human existence. I was particularly fascinated by his project The Bridge, which was designed to be a call for reunification in the DMZ between North and South Korea. There was also Said Dokins, a Mexican artist known for his large scale political works. My personal favourite was Apparitions in Mexico City. Simply extraordinary. I also loved looking at the works of Ruh Al-Alam, Yazan Halwani, A1one, and Pascal Zoghbi. They all use calligraffiti to promote both the art of calligraphy and the exchange of ideas. Using art to build bridges between communities and cultures.

And then there was the work of two incredible women. Shirin Neshat is an Iranian artist who uses photography and calligraphy to examine the social, political, and psychological dimensions of being a woman in Muslim societies. Her Women of Allah series, a piece of which is pictured to the left, is both beautiful and thought provoking. My favourite kind of art. And then there was the work of Khadiga Elghawas. She practices light calligraphy, something I didn’t even know existed until this past week. But now, it may well be my favourite type of art.

However, what stood out the most this past week was how nearly every artist I encountered was trying to use their art as a force for good. As messages of peace and harmony. To break down stereotypes and foster dialogue. And it was just the reminder I needed about why I love art. Yes, it can be fun and frivolous. But it can also be powerful and a force for good in this world. It can educate and break down barriers. And it can bring about the change we so desperately need.

So yeah. This past week fucking sucked. But didn’t all suck. Don’t get me wrong. I’m not an idiot. I know that war is not going to be magically solved through the power of calligraffiti. But it’s nice to know that even in some of the most war-ravaged places on earth, there are still people who hope for peace. Who use pens and brushes instead of weapons to try and change the world. It’s the silver lining I needed this past week.

Suggestions for artists I should check out? Please contact me with your ideas. I hope you enjoyed your daily helping of art!