He is softly spoken and a little shy, but that doesn’t stop Bader al Ajmi from being great at what he does. His business? Calligraphy. It’s an age-old tradition with a unique history in the Arab world and this is why Bader has chosen this form of art to study and take further.
“I think calligraphy is unique in the Arab world and I take pride in that,” he tells me when we meet at the launch of the Montblanc M writing instrument collection. “It’s amazing because it is native to us and we should take care of it and keep it going.”
In celebration of the recent launch, eight Middle Eastern artists, including Bader, were commissioned to create an artwork inspired by design, something that Bader sees as a “very fashionable way to take it [calligraphy] forward”.
Paying tribute to the ancient craft of calligraphy, long considered the quintessential art form of the Arab world, the artists were invited to create unique depictions of a distinctive landmark or symbol in their country, using their preferred form of calligraphy. Bader created a map of Oman in his own distinctive style (pictured above).
Some of the other exceptional works included the iconic Burj Khalifa in Dubai, the white-domed Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque in Abu Dhabi and Kingdom Tower in Saudi Arabia. The full collections are being exhibited in Montblanc boutiques across the GCC.
Bader has been a member of the Omani Association for Fine Arts since 2002 and his talent was developed through passion and a determination to learn. He has attended workshops and training courses both at home and in Turkey, where he worked with professional teachers to develop his style.
Although he is comfortable working in different styles of Arabic calligraphy, Bader prefers using Thuluth, Naskh, Diwani and Ijazah styles. He describes working with those particular styles as the “engineering of calligraphy”.
In his artwork, Bader usually begins by considering the shape of his piece before deciding the appropriate calligraphy style and the letters or words he is going to use.
Bader depicted the map of Oman in his artwork to pay a tribute to His Majesty Sultan Qaboos Bin Said Al Said’s homecoming from Germany. “I was very passionate about doing the map of Oman, I wanted to show the greatness of this land right from Musandam to Salalah.”
So dedicated was Bader, that he locked himself in a room and completed his artwork in eight painstaking hours, when the actual time allotted to the participants was two-and-a-half months.
According to Bader, calligraphy is difficult, but it is an art that can be mastered with enough practice. “You need to practice calligraphy and once you get used to it, it just becomes like another form of your handwriting,” he says.
While he is committed calligrapher, Bader is actually a full-time banker during the day. He has spent eight years in the industry, but hopes he will someday be able to give up his day job to pursue his passion. “It would be nice if I could devote all my time to calligraphy because with a full-time job, it’s hard for me to study and explore it.”
Besides calligraphy, Bader enjoys learning different languages and has even played the role of a translator at a diplomatic event. He currently speaks seven different languages, including Arabic, English, Balochi, Urdu and Persian. He credits his parents’ Iranian background for his multi-linguistic talent. His next aim is to add some European languages to this already impressive list.
Bader has received a number of awards for his work and has been included in international exhibitions as far afield as China and France, but even this success hasn’t sated his desire when it comes to calligraphy. “I have been part of a few exhibitions, but I haven’t done a solo one to date and I really wish to do that,” he tells me. “It is also my dream to do a special calligraphy work on His Majesty The Sultan, our great leader.”