Wednesday, January 14, 2015

Calligraphy Competition

The Harmattan swept in with dusty force  this morning and threathened to tear apart the make shift shelter that had been put up for the Djenné dignitaries who had assembled for the prize giving ceremony of the Djenné Manuscript Library. As always at such events the heavyweight authorities –the Maire and the Prefect- arrive at least an hour later than scheduled making everyone wait while the loudspeakers are broadcasting melodious readings from the Koran.
Nevertheless we finally got going and I said my little word about  Peace  and the theme of the texts chosen: ” Islam, a Religion of Peace.”
Somewhere in the back of my mind there had been a thought that I would suggest that one of the calligraphers write ‘We are Charlie” in Arabic on a sign that we could all hold up in front of the Library. But I had already rejected this idea as being too  manipulative- it would have been all my idea of course. I nevertheless asked what Babou and Yelpha thought about it, just out of interest. Babou didn’t know what it meant, but Yelpha explained to him that it referred to the Paris events, and Babou had of course heard about this. Their opinion -and that of most of the dignitaries present I guess- was that it had certainly been an exaggeration and a crime to kill the journalists, but that these had nevertheless committed a crime against Islam by making cartoons of the Prophet. I don’t really believe that freedom of expression and of the press is a concept that is of much importance here in Djenné...
So instead we made a sign for Angela, our faithful sponsor from Germany who sent MaliMali Projects some money again which we used for the calligraphy competition this time.
These are the winners: 1st 2nd and 3rd in order from the left. I personally wanted the second as the winner- it is quite decorative and finely done- but I had to bow to the calligraphy masters among the judges.  We got 25 entrants this time and everyone used traditional  inks, having taken part in a training workshop organized by the library in the run- up to the competition. No girls or women participated this time around alas- when I asked what happened to the girls that took part a couple of years ago I was told that they had got married. “Is there something in Islam that says that married women can’t do calligraphy anymore?” I enquired and was told that no, in fact there was no such thing. I suggested that next year we should  try and encourage the participation of the married women- and the Koran masters and Marabouts told me that they would speak to their husbands to see if they would allow it... 






Blogger David said...

The headscarf shot decides it - Cate Blanchett will play you in the movie that unquestionably has to be made about your life.

No, seriously, the central calligraphy does look the most beautiful though I can't read the text and it is from a distance.

Shame about the ladies. My wonderful Armstrong history of Islam tells me not only about the Prophet's efforts towards equality of the sexes but also of a Sufi ascetic called Rabiah who equated God/Allah with love - would love to know more about her.

12:34 AM  

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