At UNESCO’s online 16th session of the intergovernmental committee for the safeguarding of the intangible cultural heritage yesterday, Arabic calligraphy knowledge skills and practice were added on the Representative Lst of the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity.
The initiative came under the auspices of the Arab League Educational, Cultural and Scientific Organisation (ALESCO), led and organised by Saudi Arabia among 16 Arab countries that exerted an exceptional effort to document and highlight the grace, history, and skills of this fine art.
“Representing Egypt, I met in Riyadh with three UNESCO experts of Lebanon, Jordan, and Tunisia to draft the final file," explained Nahla Imam, country representative of Egypt at the 2003 convention of safeguarding the Intangible heritage of UNESCO, adding that the meeting that was organised and sponsored by Saudi Arabia was a great success. “Special thanks to the young generation representing the Saudi organisation for heritage preservation who exerted an immense effort to help us present the collective file in its best,” added Imam.
The committee included experts of Arabic calligraphy Mohamed Baghdad, the coordinator of the annual Arabic calligraphy forum hosted in Egypt for the sixth year, as well as renowned calligrapher Khedr Al-Portsaidy, founder of the Arabic Calligraphy Museum, as well as the one who accredits and certifies Arabic calligraphers in Egypt.
Arabic calligraphy has long been part and parcel of the Arabic culture. It adorns the ceilings of mosques and palaces, and is engraved on the treasures of manuscripts. In Egypt, Arabic calligraphy has crowned the Kiswa of Holy Kaaba for decades, and there is also the hajj graffiti, a high season for village artists.
“On our journey to document the Arabic calligraphy schools in Egypt, we have come across many schools that teache the art of Arabic calligraphy to passionate and dedicated lovers of this art. Each one would sharpen their tool differently and each would pour from their soul into every stroke,” added Imam.
Imam’s name has always been affiliated with the successful registration of Egyptian and Arabic intangible heritage at UNESCO’s list of the intangible cultural heritage of Humanity. Last year UNESCO included the Egyptian manual-textile industry in Upper Egypt in its List of Intangible Cultural Heritage Sites in need of urgent preservation.
Egypt first enlisted Al-Sirah Al-Helalya (The Epic of Beni Helal) in 2008, then Tahteeb (Stick Art) in 2016, followed by the Aragouz puppet in 2018, as well as the knowledge and traditions affiliated with palm trees in 2019.