A platform for Islamic art education

Rokiah Mahmud

The Islamic Calligraphy and Arts Studies Centre of Yayasan Sultan Haji Hassanal Bolkiah began its operation at Rumah Semaun on July 22, 2013, to serve as a centre assisting Yayasan in propagating the eminence of Islam by providing a platform for the development of Islamic art education in Brunei Darussalam.

The concept of the Islamic Calligraphy and Arts Studies Centre of Yayasan is to provide the convenience in learning Islamic art, particularly calligraphy and Islamic decoration arts.

The centre offers study programmes and provides services to further develop knowledge, competence and skills in Islamic arts towards upholding the Jawi writing in the country, especially Islamic calligraphy.

The establishment of the Yayasan Islamic Calligraphy and Arts Studies Centre is among the many initiatives implemented in the third decade of Yayasan’s establishment. Apart from that, the establishment is to uphold the vision of His Majesty Sultan Haji Hassanal Bolkiah Mu’izzaddin Waddaulah ibni Al-Marhum Sultan Haji Omar ‘Ali Saifuddien Sa’adul Khairi Waddien, Sultan and Yang Di-Pertuan of Brunei Darussalam in producing skilled artisans from among the citizens of Brunei Darussalam who can contribute to the development of Islamic arts in this country, in accordance with the aims of Brunei Vision 2035 for an educated, highly skilled and successful populace.

When the centre began its operation in 2013, it was involved with providing skilled human resources in the field of Islamic arts. For that, the centre has inked a number of Memorandums of Understanding (MoUs) with institutions in the field of Islamic calligraphy, including Restu International College in Shah Alam, Malaysia; Pesantren Kaligrafi Al-Quran (LEMKA), Indonesia; and OIC Research Centre for History, Arts and Culture, Republic of Turkey.

Photos show art works on display at the Islamic Calligraphy and Arts Studies Centre of Yayasan Sultan Haji Hassanal Bolkiah. PHOTOS: BAHYIAH BAKIR

To equip the centre with skilled human resources that have the capacity to further develop Islamic calligraphy and arts in the country, Yayasan funded 11 students phase by phase to undergo a full-time Diploma in Mushaf Arts, for two-and-a half years at Restu International College in Shah Alam.

Seven are now employed at the centre.

Taking into account that the centre is still in the process of offering formal study programmes, it in the meantime handles a number of short courses – basic and advanced Khat writing as well as Islamic Arts Design open for public participation.

The centre also offers reproduction hand-written copies of Yaasiin, Takhtim and Doa and hand-written calligraphy from verses of Al-Quran. The centre has three galleries, including Lauhah Al-Islamiah Gallery; Al-Aswad Gallery and At-Tasmeem Gallery.

The Lauhah Al-Islamiah Gallery exhibits international art and artefacts with a focus on the collection of Khat and illumination (zukhruf) artwork from the Islamic Calligraphy and Arts Studies Centre.

The collection were made primarily with the use of mediums such as canvas and waraq muqhar – a special traditional handmade glossy paper – all done in the traditional way.

The Al-Aswad Gallery displays art, artefacts and writing processes related to development of Jawi writing skills in Brunei Darussalam with the use of hologram technology. The Khat artworks on display focus on the seven forms of calligraphy – the Khat Ak-Mansub – a method of calligraphy widely used throughout Islamic civilisation.

As for the At-Tasmeem Gallery, it showcases a collection of interior designs through collaborations with local entrepreneurs, which were made by combining works of art and designs from the Islamic Calligraphy and Arts Studies Centre of Yayasan.

The galleries are open to members of the public including students and tourists.

Apart from the gallery, the centre is also equipped with several facilities, such as lecture rooms to hold frequent basic and advance courses in Islamic calligraphy design, the Al-Ma’rifah Hall, which is a multipurpose room for workshops, seminars and forums, as well as the Semaun Souvenir Shop offering a range of Islamic-themed products and souvenirs that incorporate elements of Islamic arts and calligraphy designs by local entrepreneurs and businesses. The centre also has the Semaun Café, an Al-Muzakarah room and a prayer hall (Musolla).

In an interview, Assistant Officer of Yayasan Islamic Calligraphy and Arts Studies Centre Hamdy bin Emran said there will be short basic and advanced courses, including Nasakh and Diwani Jali calligraphy writings. The courses will be conducted for 10 sessions every Friday morning and afternoon.

Other courses offered include Diwani Khat Art, Nasakh Khat Art, Thuluth Khat Art, Islamic Design and Watercolour Art. During school activities the centre will also organise activities such as a Khat Art competition, International Islamic Art Seminar and local Khattat meetings.