A Beginner’s Guide to Andalusi Calligraphy


A fascinating new documentary production from Barzakh, called A Beginner’s Guide to Andalusi Calligraphy, has been best described by its creators as follows: “This is the story of a calligraphic script which is almost extinct, yet which was once a crucial part of the most extraordinary cultural flourishing of the Middle Ages. We trace its journey from its origins in Madinah to its pinnacle in Al-Andalus, where we look at the rich context it evolved in. How did this once ubiquitous style fall into disuse, and what remains of it today?”


The Present-Day Context

In a world where Islam is increasingly portrayed negatively in mass media, we believe it is of vital importance to revisit the times when Muslims defined sophisticated society. Their advances in all areas of scientific investigation, as well as their fascination with the humanities, are signs of a global community committed to attaining knowledge.

With this documentary, we aim to shine a light on the means that made this possible, and to better understand the importance of the written word in the context of Al-Andalus. In doing so we hope to remind viewers that Andalusi thinkers and rulers helped lay the foundations of our current societies, Western and Eastern alike.

The Historical Importance

Al-Andalus, that golden era of the Islamic arts and sciences, would never have reached its full splendour were it not for the role played by Andalusi calligraphy. Its bold, graphic elegance belie its simplicity, which enabled Andalusi Muslims to reproduce millions of books by hand, creating some of the most impressive libraries of the era.

In this film we pick up the trail of a present-day practitioner of Andalusi calligraphy, one of the last remaining custodians of this style, with whom we explore its origins and evolution. From the history of the script to the techniques and materials involved, it is the story of how something as simple as pen and paper can transform the lives of individuals and societies at the broadest level, conserving and conveying that most valuable of treasures: knowledge.

The Cast

Abdallateef Whiteman is a designer and calligrapher, currently residing in the Alpujarra mountains, one of the last places Andalusi Muslims lived. He will be narrating his personal discovery of Andalusi calligraphy, and providing practical examples of the style. We will also be speaking with a number of local specialists to help us understand the context this calligraphic style evolved in.

calligraphy-2The Director

Zakariyya Whiteman (Zak) is a freelance director and producer based in Granada, Spain. With over a decade of filmmaking experience, he has worked on documentaries, corporate videos and short films, as well as a number of multimedia projects. Other areas of activity include audio production, graphic design, photography and visual arts. He is currently directing and producing the Travelling Light series, for the Muslim Academic Trust, in Cambridge, UK. Samples of recent productions may be found here: www.youtube.com/mishkatmedia

The Brand

Barzakh is a new, independent production label that aims to create quality content with Islamic themes. As the audiovisual branch of Alia Multimedia (www.alia.pro), our collective experience covers all aspects of multimedia creation, including audiovisual production, motion graphics, as well as design for print and web.

Our intention is to produce and distribute material for Muslims and non-Muslims alike, metaphorically speaking ‘bridging the gap’. Our hope is that we will be able to supply TV channels around the globe with quality content on a variety of subjects.

With the Collaboration of:

  • Cambridge Muslim College (www.cambridgemuslimcollege.org)
  • Alchemiya (www.alchemiya.com)
  • British Muslim TV (www.britishmuslim.tv)


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