A calligrapher writes with light to keep tradition alive | NOVA

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Outfitted with a lightweight and a digital camera, Karim Jabbari hopes his work can function a hyperlink between conservative conventional calligraphy and our augmented actuality.

Gentle calligraphy in Australia. Picture courtest of Karim Jabbari

Karim Jabbari nonetheless remembers how painful it was to stroll down the road together with his household as a toddler and see his neighbors flip away. “Nobody was keen to speak to us in public,” he says. Jabbari’s father was a political prisoner, an activist and “public enemy” of the dictatorship that then dominated Tunisia. His household was underneath strict police surveillance, and anybody seen speaking to them was instantly suspect as properly.

Ten-year-old Jabbari, lonely and lacking his father, seemed for different methods to fill his time. What he discovered was his father’s trove of 400-year-old non secular texts, inherited from an ancestor who had been a famend scholar of Islam. The books had been written in an outdated type of North African calligraphy referred to as Maghrebi script. “It’s an artwork type that speaks to your soul, even in case you don’t perceive the message,” he says. “I noticed the trouble of those individuals spending a lot time, writing a thousand pages by hand. I noticed the lengthy nights; I noticed my father, his smile.”

Earlier than lengthy, he was obsessed, copying what he noticed within the books time and again till the arcs and features settled into his muscle tissue. That obsession solely grew as soon as he left his hometown of Kasserine to go to boarding faculty, and his new ability attracted mates—the one factor he’d by no means had.

Right this moment, Jabbari, now 42, is a full-time artist primarily based in Canada and the U.S., utilizing murals, graffiti, and specialised expertise to carry conventional Arabic calligraphy to a world viewers. He worries {that a} craft that prizes meditative focus and prolonged coaching shall be misplaced in an period so centered on agility and velocity. His work, he hopes, can function a form of bridge, “a hyperlink between conservative conventional calligraphy and our augmented actuality.”

Karim Jabbari makes use of long-exposure images to seize phrases written with handheld lights. Picture courtesy of Karim Jabbari

Calligraphy—and calligraphers—have resisted new applied sciences for hundreds of years. For starters, Arabic and its sibling, Persian, used non-Latin alphabets that made them tough to adapt to be used in printing expertise developed within the West, says Behrooz Parhami, an engineer who has studied how Arabic and Persian scripts have advanced alongside expertise. Bodily typefaces constructed for Persian and Arabic’s related letters are extra fragile, vulnerable to chipping and cracking. And in the event that they aren’t completely made, white areas seem between letters that shouldn’t be there.

The scripts additionally included letters with components stacked on high of neighboring letters, which was unattainable to recreate utilizing the separate blocks of moveable sort. They usually various in top and width rather more than Latin characters, which means that the frequent printing apply of adjusting typefaces to make letters about the identical dimension would render phrases illegible. That “could be disastrous,” Parhami says. “It might be very tough to learn.”

It due to this fact is smart that in Persia and the Arab world, phrases merely remained handwritten for hundreds of years longer than in Europe, Parhami says. The printing press unfold shortly throughout Western Europe within the 1460s and 70s, however it will be one other 250 years earlier than the Ottomans, who dominated a lot of the Muslim world, allowed the opening of a print store. In Persia, it will be almost 400 years earlier than printing grew to become commonplace. And in modern-day Turkey, authorities finally resolved the typeface difficulty within the Twenties by altering that nation’s script from Arabic-based to Latin-based.

Karim Jabbari’s father’s books. Picture Courtesy of Karim Jabbari

Nonetheless, Parhami attributes this delay not simply to the technical challenges but additionally to the hallowed function of the written phrase in these societies. Within the Arab world, calligraphy supplied an intimate connection to God by way of handwritten copying of the Quran and different non secular texts. Within the area that now largely constitutes Iran, the associated Persian script (which differs by 4 letters) grew particularly elaborate, pushed partially by a wealthy poetry custom, making the thought of mechanization—and the modifications to writing that will include it—much less interesting. Jabbari’s personal connection to his ancestors’ books have helped him perceive this pressure, he says. Arabic calligraphy’s historic hyperlink with the Quran makes it a sacred type, he says. It was revered for hundreds of years “and when the printers come, all of that’s going to be dumped? That’s arduous.”

Though he empathizes, he’s additionally annoyed to see that very same resistance to alter in trendy Arabic calligraphy’s small, considerably insular neighborhood, which has typically been reluctant to embrace improvements like trendy fonts, computer-assisted publishing, and social media. Some conventional calligraphers have instructed him he doesn’t know the “actual craft” as a result of he was by no means capable of finding a mentor to formally train him Maghrebi script.  

“You generally is a stunning, wonderful, well-known, conventional calligraphy artist, however your artwork isn’t chatting with the youthful generations,” he says. Refusing to strive new issues or embrace new expertise leaves younger individuals out, he argues, and places your entire custom in danger. “‘Your artwork is dying with you,’ I mentioned to them. I’ve nothing however respect for you, however I’m taking calligraphy to the streets.”

Though Jabbari additionally paints murals that incorporate written components, “taking calligraphy to the streets” often means gentle portray: a mixture of long-exposure images and completely calibrated actions of a handheld gentle that captures the loops and swirls of Maghrebi Arabic in skinny air. In 2011, after Jabbari’s uncle was shot and killed together with 28 different younger males throughout the starting of the Arab Spring, he returned to Kasserine to just do such a efficiency piece. “I wished to jot down his identify in gentle portray, the identical place the place he died,” he says. After he completed honoring his uncle, he gave different households within the space the chance to do the identical, permitting them to jot down their family members’ names in house—a fleeting memorial fastened on movie.

Gentle calligraphy is a difficult medium. “You must know the bounds of the digital camera, what house it’s protecting,” he says. “You’ve got all of that house to discover, so you find yourself utilizing your physique as reference: making a line at chest degree, or one at hip degree.” In apply, that appears one thing like a mixture of dance, meditation, and craft. 

Jabbari has collaborated with dancers and musicians; he as soon as carried out within the background of a symphony orchestra in Abu Dhabi; and he builds yoga into his gentle calligraphy workshops. He just lately employed two software program builders to create a program that initiatives his actions in brief near-real-time loops onto skyscrapers, a form of ephemeral graffiti.

Gentle calligraphy by Karim Jabbari. Picture Credit score: Husam AlSayed

Since Jabbari arrived in Canada at 20 years outdated, calligraphy has turn out to be an essential method for him to carry onto his tradition and id. “I strongly consider that in case you don’t know your historical past, nobody will respect you,” he says. “How are you going to clarify to somebody who you’re, the place you come from, in case you don’t know that?”

Calligraphy has taught him that “we’re the sum of all of the information our ancestors transmitted to at least one one other,” he says. That’s how the artwork of calligraphy has been handed down—from grasp to scholar, who then turns into the following grasp—and likewise what calligraphy was for: recording historical past and knowledge to be shared with the following era.

Jabbari hopes his work will encourage the traditionalists to check out one thing new and the modernists to recollect the worth of custom, reminding them what writing could be: a type of escape, an journey in reminiscence. “The issue is, we’re not writing anymore,” he says. “It’s stunning to evolve, however in case you lose the connection along with your roots, you get misplaced.”

In 2013, Karim Jabbari and a bunch of youngsters from his hometown of Kasserine, Tunisia, labored for over a month to remodel a 750-foot-long jail wall into a large “calligraffiti” mural as a part of a mission known as In the direction of the Gentle. Picture courtesy of Karim Jabbari

A number of months after his efficiency on the web site of his uncle’s dying, Jabbari returned on the invitation of Tunisia’s newly fashioned authorities to the jail the place his father was held towards the tip of his 13-year sentence. Jabbari and a crew of younger males from the town, one of many nation’s poorest, labored for 45 days protecting its outer wall with an unlimited calligraphy mural, the longest in North Africa. The piece, which quotes a verse by the Tunisian poet Chebbi, reminds readers that “life doesn’t await those that are asleep.” It struck him as excellent for the second when so many Arab societies had been rejecting their dictators.

Throughout the Arab Spring, “I noticed the delivery of a brand new motion,” he says. In Tunisia, the revolution sparked a renewed curiosity in “calligraffiti,” which melds conventional calligraphy with a extra trendy, street-smart “graffiti” fashion. “That is one thing actually stunning,” he says. “These are people who find themselves happy with their language. They know what it means to them, as a part of their historical past and heritage, they usually’re utilizing it.”

‘Law & Order’ reboot continues with tradition : NPR

The unique sequence, which debuted in 1990, leaned closely on present information tales. The brand new present does the identical. Its debut episode facilities on the crimes of a TV character harking back to Invoice Cosby.


That is FRESH AIR. The NBC drama sequence “Regulation & Order” premiered in 1990 and was televised till 2010, spawning a number of spinoff sequence alongside the best way. However this week, the unique “Regulation & Order” resumes after a 12-year hiatus. It is a continuation, not a reboot. Our TV critic David Bianculli has this take a look at the present’s historical past and affect, in addition to the contents of this new incarnation. This is his assessment.


DAVID BIANCULLI, BYLINE: That sound, which has signaled a transition between scenes on NBC’s “Regulation & Order” and all its many spinoffs for many years, has develop into probably the most recognizable sounds on tv. That is principally as a result of it appears to have been round perpetually, and in TV historical past phrases, it virtually has. The unique “Regulation & Order” sequence began in 1990, virtually a full decade earlier than the premiers of “The West Wing” and “The Sopranos.” Sequence creator Dick Wolf, who had labored as a producer on “Miami Vice,” launched “Regulation & Order” as a drama sequence that, in essence, was two sequence in a single. The legislation portion was a cop present, exhibiting how the police solved the crime and arrested the prime suspect. And the order half was the courtroom drama, exhibiting how the prosecutors constructed their case in opposition to the accused and argued it at trial.

The idea for “Regulation & Order” wasn’t authentic. The identical primary construction was used within the ABC drama sequence “Arrest And Trial” approach again in 1963, starring Ben Gazzara because the cop and Chuck Connors because the protection lawyer. However the thought was a superb one and allowed “Regulation & Order” over its 20 years to cycle by plenty of forged modifications with out lacking a beat. What remained fixed all through was the construction of the present, the on-location capturing in New York and the usage of accessible Broadway actors as visitor stars. If you happen to had been a stage actor in New York from 1990 to 2010 and did not have a credit score on “Regulation & Order” in your resume, you wanted a brand new agent.

When “Regulation & Order” closed down 12 years in the past, its common forged members included Anthony Anderson, later of “Black-ish,” as Detective Kevin Bernard and Sam Waterston, later of “The Newsroom,” as Assistant District Lawyer Jack McCoy. They’re each again for this 2022 model, teamed with new characters and gamers, together with Camryn Manheim. Anderson’s detective, for instance, is now paired with Frank Cosgrove, a white cop performed by Jeffrey Donovan, previously of “Burn Discover” and Season 2 of TV’s “Fargo.” Donovan’s a wonderful actor, however even he cannot promote a few of the dialogue right here, which is so clunky it is painful. The outdated “Regulation & Order” all the time had the repute of getting its crimes and points ripped from the headlines but additionally had the repute of being apparent and stilted with its dealing with of these points. The brand new “Regulation & Order” continues that custom.

This is a scene wherein Kevin and Frank strategy a younger Black man on the road to query him and tempers run so excessive that Frank is pulled away by his accomplice. Instantly afterward, Frank complains about being handled unfairly.


JEFFREY DONOVAN: (As Frank Cosgrove) Are you kidding me? These younger children – they obtained no respect. They get to say and do no matter they need. It is like a free move.

ANTHONY ANDERSON: (As Kevin Bernard) I am undecided what you imply by that.

DONOVAN: (As Frank Cosgrove) I imply, I am white. He is Black. I say the improper factor, and my profession is over.

ANDERSON: (As Kevin Bernard) Perhaps.

DONOVAN: (As Frank Cosgrove) Perhaps? Is there one other approach of this?

ANDERSON: (As Kevin Bernard) Hey, Frank, you got here at him sizzling, man.

DONOVAN: (As Frank Cosgrove) I confirmed him my badge, and I mentioned, the way you doing? How’s that coming off sizzling? Ought to I’ve supplied him a croissant and invited him to tea on the St. Regis?

ANDERSON: (As Kevin Bernard) Perhaps you need to have handled him somewhat extra well mannered, like a law-abiding citizen minding his personal rattling enterprise.

DONOVAN: (As Frank Cosgrove) Reality is, it is these rattling telephones. They’ve ruined the whole lot.

ANDERSON: (As Kevin Bernard) OK. That is a technique of it.

DONOVAN: (As Frank Cosgrove) The opposite?

ANDERSON: (As Kevin Bernard) They maintain us accountable.

BIANCULLI: There is a completely different form of built-in battle on the Order half of the present. Sam Waterston’s Jack McCoy has been promoted. He’s now the DA in cost, and he oversees a brand new workers of assistants, together with Hugh Dancy as Nolan Worth. And he is upset within the season premiere episode by the best way the police extract a confession from the defendant, however McCoy is just not.


SAM WATERSTON: (As Jack McCoy) This case is front-page information, Nolan.

HUGH DANCY: (As Nolan Worth) I get it. However with all due respect, that is not related. Whenever you requested me to come back right here, you mentioned, I want somebody who sees the world by a unique lens, somebody with the center to make laborious selections.

WATERSTON: (As Jack McCoy) I bear in mind. I nonetheless really feel that approach. Nevertheless it’s a authorized confession, Nolan. Cops are allowed to lie.

DANCY: (As Nolan Worth) They’re. Nevertheless it makes the confession much less dependable, much less moral.

WATERSTON: (As Jack McCoy) No. If it is authorized, it is moral.

BIANCULLI: The case itself, the one they’re prosecuting, is probably the most incendiary facet of this in any other case typical new model of “Regulation & Order.” The fictional case includes the homicide of a preferred celeb named Henry King, accused of drugging and raping 40 girls. It is apparent that this episode is ripped from headlines tied to Invoice Cosby. And that is noteworthy, if for no different cause, as a result of when the unique “Regulation & Order” premiered on NBC, two of the community’s prime 5 TV reveals had been from Cosby, “The Cosby Present” and “A Totally different World.” Invoice Cosby dominated NBC then and was chargeable for its reversal of fortune from third place to first. At the moment, as “Regulation & Order” returns for Season 21, Cosby is getting used as nameless inspiration for simply one other TV plot.

And this new “Regulation & Order,” make no mistake, is simply one other TV version of the identical acquainted present, one other cog in a really dependable machine. From its memorable theme music by Mike Put up to the fast tempo of it’s-just-the-facts-ma’am plot factors, this new “Regulation & Order” season is rather like all of the others. That makes it a watchable present, not a fantastic one. Nevertheless it’s nonetheless not a grievance. At a time when all the published networks are churning out extra sport and actuality reveals than scripted sequence in primetime, the return of the old style “Regulation & Order” is a step ahead, in addition to a nod backward.

GROSS: David Bianculli is a professor of tv research at Rowan College in New Jersey. “Regulation & Order” premiers tomorrow on NBC. Tomorrow on FRESH AIR, it’s possible you’ll be squeamish about bugs, however might people reside in a world with out them? Bugs play vital roles in pollinating crops we eat, breaking down waste in forest soil and forming the bottom of a meals chain for different animals. Our visitor will likely be environmental author Oliver Milman, who explores the troubling decline in insect populations in his new ebook, “The Insect Disaster.” I hope you will be part of us.


GROSS: Our technical director and engineer is Audrey Bentham, with extra engineering right now from Al Banks. Our interviews and critiques are produced and edited by Amy Salit, Phyllis Myers, Sam Briger, Lauren Krenzel, Heidi Saman, Therese Madden, Ann Marie Baldonado, Thea Chaloner, Seth Kelley and Kayla Lattimore. Our digital media producer is Molly Seavy-Nesper. I am Terry Gross.


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