The Artist Behind Chamkana Mystical Arabic Designs
Although my older work- bright and vibrant portrait commissions- were well-received and applauded by friends and collectors, I always felt slightly unfulfilled by the process of their creation and upon completing my work, I was never quite satisfied. I suppose that I felt that in some ways, in my opinion, the work lacked depth or meaning. That isn’t to say that there was anything wrong with art for arts sake- art that doesn’t hold a profound message, but what I mean to say is that if I, the creator, do not feel ultimate fulfillment with my creation, then my creation should be questioned. Creative frustration is caused by a subconscious awareness in ones capability but a pervasive mental block in how to exploit it.
I had long been drawn to the mystical poetry of Hafiz and Rumi and also fascinated by the teachings of various spiritual leaders. My spiritual growth went hand in hand with my creative development. It was my longing, a yearning for an understanding of myself, that lead me to my calligraphy designs; a creative block that seemed to last for years slowly dissipated as I began to explore it.
There are no coincidences. My journey with Arabic lettering began when a childhood friend messaged me from Peru to ask me to write his daughters name in Arabic so that he could have it tattooed on him. My imagery has always been quite fluid and so the flow of calligraphy came naturally to me. His daughter’s name was Azul, which means blue in Spanish.
As I considered various designs, I began to see how the Arabic letter could be molded and shaped into recognizable forms, offering countless possibilities. The movement of the letters could capture the sentiment of the word and express the profundity of the Arabic language. Beginning with a few abstract designs, I shaped the letters of her name into a symbol that has significance for him as her father, a Piscean. The resulting symbol was a boat. This bore relevance to him as he felt that his daughters birth helped him move forward in life in the same way that the sail of the boat- guided by a universal wind- lead him on his path to self-discovery.
The immediate response from the public after posting images of my work on Instagram was unprecedented. I had numerous followers requesting tattoo designs, some simple and others multifaceted. I received the most interesting and moving stories with numerous requests; stories of struggle and overcoming obstacles, lost love and sickness. To many, upon receiving their tattoo emblem, their story would end with their symbol of personal and spiritual awakening. In a sense, my creation was a totem to each of its owners- a permanent reminder of their strengths and virtues and of seeing ‘the light’.
Only from the heart can you touch the sky - Rumi.
Calligraphy is a technique that is often associated with Islamic design and so I love juxtaposing it and incorporating it into symbols from other cultures. My designs don’t follow traditional calligraphic rules and so can’t really be defined as Arabic calligraphy, which is why I decided to call my art form “mystical Arabic writing” because of it’s consistent allusion to oneness, where all elements come together to bring a form to life, but also because it doesn’t abide by rules of form or structure.
Forever (إلا الأبد)
Each design holds special significance to me, but there are a few that stand out in my memory: I recently created a tattoo for a woman in Brazil in the shape of Iemanja, the Brazilian goddess of the sea, using the words of Khalil Gibran, the Lebanese Christian poet. Another was for a client in Saudi Arabia who, when describing the importance of meditation in his life, came up with the insightful phrase “I started to see when I closed my eyes.” I translated his words into the shape of an owl, a symbol of wisdom and luck in ancient Greek mythology. A Bahraini poet also approached me to translate a beautiful and very mystical line she had written into a yogic pose.
Iemanja “I am the infinite sea and the worlds are but grains of sand upon my shore” Khalil Gibran (أنا هو البحر غير المتناهي و ما جميع العوالم سوى حبات من الرمل على شاطئ)
I started to see when I closed my eyes (بدات ارى عندما أغلقت عينى)
“I surrender myself to myself” Amal Jaafar (إني أسلم نفسي لنفسي)
“Mystical Arabic writing” then translates into a language that is cross-cultural and all- encompassing, and each carefully considered symbol of love and unity, becomes the voice of its beholder.
Artist and co founder of The Generous Light Co.