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Calligraffiti: Rhona Wells reports on a fascinating new art form developed by Omani artist Madny Al Bakry.


THE INTERNATIONALLY ACCLAIMED ARTIST Madny Al Bakry is a self-taught calligrapher. Born on the tropical island of Zanzibar, an environment that he describes as "a visual feast of harmonious colours, enhanced by tropical sunlight," Bakry believes that childhood memories of his

homeland continue to influence his work. His job at a textile mill in Dares Salaam during his academic career familiarised him with African motifs and patterns, which are showcased to fabulous effect in his art. Bakry's unique style has led him to coin the term 'Calligrafitti' defining the merger between his three principle approaches: Islamic art, calligraphy and graffiti.

As he explains: "The letters are released from their fixed grammatical position and positioned freely on the page, based on creative whims. To me, the ornamental richness of Arabic calligraphy expresses more than just the meaning of words. In my paintings, the flowing rhythmic scripts imitate the basic rhythms of life."

"As well as calligraphy, nature is one of my inspirations," notes the artist. "Its unlimited palette and vibrancy of colours, patterns and compositions is limitless. Compositions come alive with the rays of light that illuminate and cast shadows, creating life forms and contrast. There are no colour rules; colours in nature do not clash and in my paintings I love to explore non-classical colour combinations."

Although many of his paintings contain some elements of calligraphy, they are not there to deliver a message, just to provide artistic inspiration. He proclaims that you can hang his art any which way you choose; there is no right or wrong way and no upside down.

In his studio in the Omani capital of Muscat, Bakry produces a spectacle of stunning arrangements and colours. He suggests that "by combining elements of different cultures, we can unite and dispel negative perceptions (such as that of inferiority or superiority) and thus create an atmosphere of harmony and understanding among all peoples."


One of his latest paintings is a tribute to the late Nelson Mandela, an extremely moving painting, where Mandela leapt off the canvas at me when I first saw it. Looking at it more carefully, it also delivers strong messages of peace.

Bakry works mainly with watercolours, "the brilliancy and absorbency of the paper allows watercolours to be rendered transparent which helps to capture the play of light and subtle nuances of atmosphere."

There is nothing shy about the artist's use of colours. His work is vibrant and fascinating. Each painting draws you in to its centre, some in most unexpected ways. His art, he notes, is never finished. At his studio, he will frequently go back to a painting, adding a touch here and there. "I don't complete a painting. Completion, I believe, is with God and so I just abandon for a while and move onto the next thing. I might then go back to a piece months or even years later and add something, this is how my work evolves. But otherwise, if it remains untouched, that is that."

Bakry is internationally recognised for his work. He has exhibited around the world at The Scope Art Fair in Miami, the Simple Gallery in Gstaad, Switzerland and the Ladh Gallery in London amongst others. Meanwhile, at home in Oman, Sultan Qaboos has commissioned several paintings and the national carrier, Oman Air, have decorated their first class lounge at Muscat International Airport with his art.

In the future, Bakry hopes to sponsor students to allow them to broaden their scope and talents while his personal aspirations include hosting a special exhibition, featuring "glow in the dark art" ... watch this space.
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Title Annotation:Mosaic/ART
Author:Wells, Rhona
Publication:The Middle East
Geographic Code:7OMAN
Date:Feb 1, 2014
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