The internationally acclaimed artist Madny Al Bakry is a self-taught calligrapher. Born on the tropical island of Zanzibar, an environment that he describes as “a visual feast of harmonious colours, enhanced by tropical sunlight,” Bakry believes that child- hood memories of his homeland continue to influence his work. His job at a textile mill in Dar es Salaam during his academic career familiarised him with African motifs and patterns, which are showcased to fabulous effect in his art.

Bakry’s unique style has led him to coin the term ‘Calligrafitti’ defining the merger between his three principle approaches: Islamic art, calligraphy and graffiti.

As he explains: “The letters are released from their fixed grammatical position and positioned freely on the page, based on creative whims. To me, the ornamental richness of Arabic calligraphy expresses more than just the meaning of words. In my paintings, the flowing rhythmic scripts imitate the basic rhythms of life.”

“As well as calligraphy, nature is one of my inspirations,”notes the artist.”Its unlimited palette and vibrancy of colours, patterns and compositions is limitless. Compositions come alive with the rays of light that illuminate and cast shadows, creating life forms and contrast. There are no colour rules; colours in nature do not clash and in my paintings. I love to explore non-classical colour combinations.”

Although many of his paintings contain some elements of calligraphy, they are not there to deliver a message, just to provide artistic inspiration. He proclaims that you can hang his art any which way you choose; there is no right or wrong way and no upside down.

In his studio in the Omani capital of Muscat, Bakry produces a spectacle of stunning arrangements and colours. He suggests that “by combining elements of different cultures, we can unite and dispel negative perceptions (such as that of inferiority or superiorty) and thus create an atmosphere of harmony and understanding among all peoples.”

One of his latest paintings is a tribute to the late Nelson Mandela, an extremely moving painting, where Mandela leapt off the canvas at me when I first saw it.

Rhona Wells

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