Celebrated calligrapher Şeyh Hamdullah (1436-1520), known as the father of Ottoman Calligraphy, established a tradition of calligraphy that is still practiced by artists today. His works are prominent in an accordion album, Album of Ottoman Calligraphy, which is one of only three known pieces in the United States that includes the innovative calligrapher’s signature. Join world-renowned calligrapher Mohamad Zakariya; Ashley Dimmig, Wieler-Mellon Postdoctoral Curatorial Fellow in Islamic Art; Aisha Imam, Reed Society for the Sacred Arts; and independent scholar Nancy Micklewright in a virtual exploration of this important calligraphy album in the Walters collection, followed by a discussion of Şeyh Hamdullah’s legacy and the living art practice of Islamic calligraphy in the mid-Atlantic region.
Aisha Imam is the founder and executive director of Reed Society for the Sacred Arts, a 501(c)(3) organization that promotes sacred art, particularly Islamic art and music. Under her direction, Reed Society presented an online calligraphy exhibition titled Beauty in Solitude in collaboration with Ashley Dimmig, Wieler-Mellon Postdoctoral Curatorial Fellow in Islamic Art, at the Walters Art Museum in May 2020 and partnered with curators from other institutions such as the Metropolitan Museum of Art and the University of Michigan to share specific Islamic calligraphic works through dialogues with practicing calligraphers. She is an aspiring calligrapher, working under the guidance of Mohamed Zakariya for over a decade.
Most recently Nancy Micklewright was the Andrew W. Mellon Fellow in the Department of Islamic Art at the Metropolitan Museum of Art where she was working on her new book, Dressing for the Camera, Fashion and Photography in the late Ottoman Empire. Previously, she was Head of Public and Scholarly Engagement at the Smithsonian’s Freer Gallery of Art & Arthur M. Sackler Gallery, where among other duties she served as the editor-in-chief of the journal Ars Orientalis. A former university professor and senior program office at the Getty Foundation, she is the author of two books and numerous articles on the history of photography and of dress in the Ottoman Empire. She has a PhD from the University of Pennsylvania in the History of Islamic Art and Architecture.
A machinist by training, American-born Mohamed Zakariya is a classically educated Islamic calligrapher who earned diplomas in three calligraphic scripts from the Research Centre for Islamic History, Art, and Culture in Istanbul. His work has been collected and displayed worldwide, including at the Museum of Islamic Art in Doha, Qatar. Zakariya designed Eid holiday stamps for the U.S. Postal Service in 2001, 2009, 2011, and 2016. He has been featured in several movies, including the 2002 PBS documentary “Muhammad: Legacy of a Prophet.” Zakariya’s work may be seen at www.MohamedZakariya.com.
Image: Album of Calligraphy. Calligrapher Seyh Hamdullah. Ottoman Turkey 10th century AH/16th century AD-12th century AH/18th century AD. Acquired by Henry Walters.