By Nadia Cassim
In the final week of Ramadhan 2017 I was invited to Gulshan Ayob’s Art Studio (Art by Gulshan) in Ridgeway, Johannesburg to attend a workshop by Master Quran calligrapher Seyed Hassan Chavoshi. Mr Chavoshi and his wife, the talented Nafiseh Mastaneh, demonstrated their art form by teaching those in attendance the method and precision of writing in the Naskh script. Furthermore, they exhibited their exquisite artworks, emphasising the love and detail that goes into what they do for a living.
Seyed Hassan Chavoshi started his calligraphy journey at the age of seventeen. A friend of his, who was active in the field of Arabic calligraphy, introduced him to the art form at a mosque and together they embarked on learning how to write in the Nastaliq script style. After two years however, Chavoshi changed his calligraphy style to the Naskh script, the popular style for writing religious texts and books.
He studied under an Ustadh (teacher) to master the Naskh script and then embarked on drawing on the walls of mosques in Tehran. He also engaged in writing out prayer books in this script, one of which contained a thousand pages!
Chavoshi agrees that by doing such work and writing out Holy texts, a spiritual connection is made between the mind and heart. He says that there is a reciprocal relationship between writing and applying your mind to the task at hand. Coming to South Africa has enabled him and his wife to share the culture of their homeland, Iran, with the local Muslims in South Africa. They hope that by connecting with South African Muslims through the common knowledge of the Quranic texts, that a culture of sharing information can be created.
Chavoshi and his wife, who is a professional calligrapher herself, have exhibited their work for the first time during their journey around the world this year. Whilst he prefers writing the holy texts, he leaves the finer details- the decorative aspect- to his wife. Some of her pieces take over a year to complete. He uses ink and paper and she uses gauche and watercolours to bring the final product to life.
Chavoshi’s advice to anyone wanting to explore this art form is to study the Quranic script, as the texts of the Holy book has been written by master Arabic calligraphers of note.