Reforming Arabic calligraphy: For computer art and *design in Kuwaiti art education
Khaled Abdullah Alnajdi, The Pennsylvania State University, United States
Doctor of Philosophy, The Pennsylvania State University . Awarded
While Arabic calligraphy has maintained its traditional forms for the past 13 centuries in various cultural and artistic expressions, it has not been modernized for use in computer graphic design as Western writing and letterforms have. Over the centuries, traditional Arabic calligraphy, which has served cultural purposes, especially in sacred texts, such as in writing the Qur'an, is strongly associated with Islamic culture. However, traditional Arabic calligraphy does not serve modern technological requirements and contemporary digital art.
Therefore, this study was to examined the potential to reform traditional Arabic calligraphy for digital contemporary art, using these questions: (1) how might new forms of Arabic calligraphy help Muslim and Arab people understand their cultural art in relation to contemporary artistic theories and presentations; (2) how could Arabic calligraphy be modified by using the computer; (3) what are the cultural boundaries that could prevent or limit the reform of Arabic calligraphy for contemporary artistic and technological use; (4) what other solutions are there for reforming the Arabic letters for modern typography, and (5) how could the art education program in Kuwait be expanded through digitizing Arabic calligraphy?
The research method contained two parts (experimental digital artworks and designs and qualitative research). First I developed new letterforms based on the traditional Arabic letterforms, using the computer, and created digital fine artworks with my modified letterforms, using design software applications. With these letterforms, I created a new Arabic writing system, especially to use in modern Arabic typography and contemporary digital graphic design. Second, I interviewed professional calligraphers, artists, educators, religious scholars, and students involved with Arabic writing and cultural traditions, Islamic arts, graphic design, and/or curriculum development to determine their response to my rendition of the Arabic letterforms, especially in my digital fine artworks, and my development of a new Arabic writing system. The interviewees were selected for their familiarity with contemporary Islamic artworks containing Arabic calligraphy, their commitment to Islamic traditions, and their involvement in art education in Kuwaiti public schools and colleges.
Most of the interviewees have a strong commitment to their cultural values and resist any major modification to the authentic traditional Arabic letterforms. Most of those interviewed believe that any major alteration of native Arabic writing will compromise this element of Islamic cultural heritage and traditions. They also believe that introducing students to the new Arabic letterforms proposed in this study would diminish their ability to learn traditional Arabic writing. However, most of the artists, art educators, and students I interviewed think that modernizing Arabic calligraphy to some extent is a necessity for today's technology. Although some insisted that the letters must maintain their cultural identity through accurate letterforms.
Interpreting the interviewee's responses as well as considering their insights has helped me to modernize the Arabic letters, while considering the cultural boundaries, and to develop a new Arabic writing system and letterforms that could enhance visual artistic presentations in Islamic and Arab communities. I have proposed implementation of this new Arabic writing system and letterforms, along with a program in computer art in the art education program at the College of Basic Education in Kuwait to improve the quality of the art education in Kuwaiti public schools and colleges.
Alnajdi, K.A. Reforming Arabic calligraphy: For computer art and *design in Kuwaiti art education. Doctor of Philosophy thesis, The Pennsylvania State University.
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