Arabic calligraphy has been included in Unesco’s prestigious Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity list. The list reflects “the diverse cultural practices and expressions of humanity, and seeks to raise awareness of the importance of such practices and expressions”, says Unesco.
The Arabic calligraphy proposal was initiated by a coalition of 16 Arabic-speaking countries. The campaign was led by Saudi Arabia, which continues to promote its cultural credentials as part of the government’s Vision 2030 plan aimed at diversifying the economy and delivering a more “open” image of the country.
In a statement made by UNESCO, the organization described the custom as “the artistic practice of handwriting Arabic script in a fluid manner to convey harmony, grace and beauty.” The tradition dates back to the 6th century CE. Invented to improve the legibility of Arabic writing, the writing became more complex as artists discovered that by shaping the letters in different ways, they could create unique patterns. Various materials are used in calligraphy, including honey, black carbon, saffron, and spray paint.
Abdul Majid Mahbub, Executive Director of the Saudi Heritage Preservation Society, noted that due to technological progress, the number of specialists in the field of Arabic calligraphy is rapidly declining. He believes that the inclusion of calligraphy in the list of cultural heritage will have a positive impact on the preservation of this art form.
Prince Badr bin Abdullah bin Farhan, the Saudi Arabia’s Minister of Culture, said in a national statement: “We welcome the inscription of Arabic calligraphy, which is the result of the Kingdom championing this treasured aspect of authentic Arabic culture.”