Calligraphy workshops, led by the artist Mohammed Abu Mustafa took place at the Leighton House Museum, during the first week of March. The Museum is a preserved Victorian House, displaying Lord Leighton's paintings as well as housing a rare and spectacular collection of ceramics from the Muslim lands to which Leighton travelled.
Abu Mustafa shares, exclusively with MCBDirect readers, what he has discovered during his week at Leighton House, and how his theme of 'Art reflecting faith' for the calligraphy workshop is an equally apt introduction to the magnificent Arab Hall each visitor encounters upon entering the Museum. Built in the 1870's, the Hall with a dome was constructed with the many pieces the owner purchased from Syria, Pakistan, Iraq and Egypt. Below is a flavour of the insights Abu Mustafa shared:
`The art in Leighton House is as yet undiscovered, seen or highlighted, for the teachings of Islam are reflected in the Arab Hall with the ceramic tiles from all over the Muslim world, calligraphy, and square fountain at it's centre. The unity of the Muslims starts by looking at Al-Ka'ba and the black stone; by looking at a circle within a square. The square is the presentation of the relationship of human resources and sharing these resources of life on earth.
In the Abbasid period, the early scholars explained the square's four equal sides as the four life forces; water, air, fire for energy and food for growth. This interpretation was based on the Prophetic saying that, 'People are equal in three basics, water, food and energy in which no one should deny the right of another.'
At a later stage, the square in Islamic art was crossed by another square, the four corners representing the four corners of the earth - East, West, North and South.
Frederick Leighton has built a special room showing his appreciation of Islamic teachings by creating the centrepiece of the square fountain, where water is reflecting the source of life, as is taught in the Qur'an.
Again, in the Arab Hall we find more connections to the Muslim world, as Leighton commissioned the production of windows using stained glass matching that used in the Aqsa Mosque in Jerusalem.
Leighton seems, from his collection to have been influenced by the spiritual in Islam, particularly when he visited Damascus and Baghdad. This is evident from the Qur'anic verse set into the walls of the Arab Hall which is from the Chapter called Rahmaan (The Merciful). The calligraphy is in the Thuluth style, on Iznick tiles, which flourished during the Ottoman period. The first verses read
By the Merciful, He has taught the Qur'an
He created humankind,
He taught him articulate speech Â….
Holy Qur'an 50: 1
The choice of this great verse cannot be disputed as a sign of Leighton's great appreciation of Islamic universal teachings. It is here, in this Victorian Museum that one finds the Arab Hall so well defined, reflecting the Islamic faith more so than many Muslim artists in the last two centuries, and certainly demonstrating the sublime finery inherent in past civilisations in more detail than most mosques.'
Forthcoming events to be held at Leighton House include Henna painting, a Bedouin tent with arts and crafts. For further information, contact Leighton House Museum via the link on the right.