By Mudassir Raja
The journey goes on. The more you learn the less you know. The aim is to grow and establish a name as an artist. And, it has not been easy to start and keep the pace of the journey.
These words may briefly explain the struggle and the journey taken by Abdul Kareem Kakkove, a 40-year-old calligrapher from Kerala, India. Completely self-taught due to growing up amidst financial hardships, he is almost there to create a mark in Qatar for his intricate curlicues and standout designs. The artist, who is esteemed for adding an abstract and contemporary touch to the traditional practice, is all hopeful to showcase his work in Qatar. His parents did not have resources to support his formal education and he had to give up his education to support his family in a very young age. He however could not give up his love for calligraphy and he decided not to give in to the financial woes.
“I’ve studied till Grade X and could not complete my college owing to the financial problems in the family. So, I’ve never learned calligraphy via regular and proper education. I always looked for art houses to learn calligraphy besides having a job to support my family but ofcourse because of financial constraints I couldn’t do that for long as I was not able to pay the fee for formal training,” Abdul Kareem said in an interview with Community.
Kareem, who is fast gaining popularity in Doha for his calligraphic work, mostly had it through self-learning and through some benevolent art teachers in India. He said, “Some local art organisations noticed my artwork and they appreciated my talent. They offered their support and one of my uncles supported me in learning the art of calligraphy. Even then it was expensive for me. I worked for different art places in Kerala. I used to learn and earn at the same time. However, I was not satisfied with what I was learning. Finally, I got in touch with a real master of calligraphy. I worked for six years with the master and really honed up my skills. I also got training from two other extraordinary artists who had worked in different Gulf countries.”
Kareem’s financial hardships started to ease and his talent got a new canvas when he got a job in the Middle East. “I entered the world of digital calligraphy,” he adds, “Earlier I used to do anatomic calligraphy. I used to make pieces to highlight different social and political issues in India for social media.”
The calligrapher has been in Qatar for eight years, working in the advertising business. “I’ve done some exhibitions in Kerala, but I have never formally showcased my work here in Doha. I would love to and I plan on holding one at Katara. I’ve been teaching calligraphy to different community groups and kids. I have also conducted four workshops on digital calligraphy and graphic designs. Recently, I was a part of group of artists who carried out a project of sand art that highlighted the journey of Qatar from past to present on the eve of Qatar National Day. I wrote ‘Qatar will remain independent’ in Arabic on the sand. I continue to react to different issues taking place in the world through my work on the social media.”
“I have also started to look deep into and practice traditional and classic calligraphy. I am working with one of a calligraphy maestro here in Qatar. I get a lot of chances to meet renowned calligraphers and artists as they visit Doha. It is my dream to exhibit my work here. I also desire to visit Turkey, Iran and China to learn about calligraphy more in detail. I have been learning calligraphy for many years and I still do not think that I’m a sort of a maestro. There’s still a lot to learn and lots of avenues to discover,” he said.
The artist said, “I want to suggest all the beginners to learn calligraphy in a proper way, I mean by formal education. As I did not get formal training, I suffered a lot. I actually honed my skills when I came here. The beginners should start learning classic calligraphy first and then they can move on to other genres.
Kareem can be contacted at +974 - 3352 1757
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