Publish Date : Tuesday 29 September 2009 - 11:17
Here are the latest cultural headlines in the media.
Iran to celebrate Rumi National Day in Khoy

Tehran Times: Iran will commemorate Rumi National Day on September 30 during a ceremony at the Shams Tomb in Khoy.
The ceremony will be held from September 29 to 31 and will be attended by scholars of Rumi.

The organizers plan to award a posthumous honor to Rumi expert Mohammad-Amin Riahi for his lifetime efforts to prove that Khoy is home to the tomb of Shams.

Before the formal initiation of the ceremony, a group of poets from West Azerbaijan Province will hold a ceremony during which they will recite poems on Rumi they have composed. The program will be accompanied by live music, Shams and Rumi Foundation Director Mohammad Ansarian told ISNA.

The managing director of the Shams and Rumi Foundation Hojjatollah Ayyubi and Rumi scholars Tofiq Sobhani, Qader Fazeli and Rahman Moshtaq-Mehr will speak during the event.

The ceremony is being held under the auspices of the Shams and Rumi Foundation.


Winners of Sacred Defense book festival announced

Tehran Times: Winners of the festival “A Quarter Century of Sacred Defense Books” were announced in a ceremony at the Andisheh Hall of Tehran’s Art Bureau on Sunday.

A group of cultural figures including Majlis Speaker Ali Larijani, Ali Akbar Velayati foreign policy adviser to the Supreme Leader, Brigadier General Mirfeisal Baqerzadeh head of the Foundation for the Preservation and Publication of Sacred Defense Works and Values, and several others participated in the ceremony.

The jury announced the winners in the different categories of fiction, short stories, novel, poetry, literary prose, children poetry, and children stories.

The book “A Commander like Father” by the late Davud Bakhtiari-Daneshvar was selected in the fiction section.

“Santa Maria” by Mehdi Shojaei was selected in the short story section.

In the novel section, the books “Blood Augury” by Davud Ghaffarzadegan, and “Palms and People” by Nematollah Soleimani were awarded.

In the poetry section, the collection “From the Green Sky” by late Salman Harati, “Send an Angel” by Abdorreza Rezaiinia, and “Andimeshk Train” by Alireza Qazveh were announced.

The books “Back to the Shadows and Voices” and “The Night of a Dream” by Ziya Shafiei were selected in the literary prose section.

In the children’s poetry section, “Like Spring, Like Stream” by the late Qeisar Aminpur and “From This Star to That Star” by the late Salman Harati were selected.

In the children’s stories section, the books “Eye, Eye, Two Fish” by Mohammad Hamzehzadeh and “Good Night Commander” by Ahmad Akbarpur were selected. Also “Be My Daddy Deer” by Hassan Bani-Ameri was selected the best in the young adult section.


Iran is the model for the promotion of Islamic arts: Pakistani calligrapher 

Tehran Times: The world’s youngest award-winning calligrapher says that he has traveled to many countries but has never seen such admiration, appreciation, and enthusiasm for Islamic arts and calligraphy as he has seen in Iran.

Muhammad Ashraf Heera, the youngest calligrapher to ever win the IRCICA Incentive Prize in Kufic script, put a number of his works on display at the 17th International Holy Quran Exhibition in Tehran during the holy month of Ramadan.

Heera won the IRCICA prize in 2003, becoming the first Pakistani to win the award.

“The Iranians do not merely excel in one or two art forms, but rather they have attained excellence in many art forms such as painting, sculpture, calligraphy, intarsia, and illustration,” Heera said during an exclusive interview with the Tehran Times conducted in the Iranian capital on September 8.

The calligrapher, who will turn 18 in December, called upon all Muslim countries to follow Iran’s example in the promotion of Islamic arts and the dissemination of Quranic teachings.

Following is the text of the interview:

Q: How and when did you begin creating calligraphy?

A: I started doing calligraphy at the age of seven. I had three classmates in my school whose brothers were artists, and we would compete with each other in creating calligraphy. My handwriting was better than that of my better-off friends and I was very passionate about it, so I would do the calligraphy homework for all my classmates. This had been going on for a year or so when I won my first prize at the age of eight in a competition in which different schools in our city participated. The prize money seemed enormous to me and I felt so good about winning that my head was in the clouds. Our teachers, who used to chide me for doing my classmates’ homework, were suddenly very happy, and so were my parents.

After three months, I again finished in first place, but this time it was in a competition with calligraphers from the entire province of Punjab. From then on, I never looked back; I kept on finishing in first place -- one time after another. At eleven, not only did I win most of the calligraphy competitions in my country but I was also declared the champion calligrapher of the year.

When Pakistani President Muhammad Rafiq Tarar presented a trophy to me, I seized the opportunity and asked him to send in my name for the 6th International Calligraphy Competition of the Research Centre for Islamic History, Art and Culture (IRCICA) that was scheduled to be held in Istanbul in 2003. These IRCICA competitions are arranged by the Organization of the Islamic Conference.

The president told me that it would be almost impossible to win, since all previous winners have been over 45 years old. I pressed him, pointing out that I had won 25 calligraphy competitions out of the last 26 and he finally agreed. I sent my work to IRCICA and started preparing for the competition. I selected the Kufic script category, and by the grace of Almighty Allah, I won first prize in the incentive category. Even the most senior calligraphers of the country were in disbelief. They were especially amazed that I finished in first place in the category of Kufic script, which is considered a monopoly of the Arabs. This was my first international prize, so at age 12, I became Pakistan’s first and the world’s youngest calligrapher to win the IRCICA Incentive Prize. Q: How much effort did you make in preparation for this competition?

A: After school I would spend every spare moment practicing calligraphy. I was fond of cricket but I sacrificed (my participation in) this sport for the sake of calligraphy. I didn’t attend social events, weddings, or even eids (Islamic holidays). I spent all my money buying supplies for calligraphy. I think that’s why God chose me for this art form.

Q: You have participated in art exhibitions in countries like England, Japan, and China, where people generally know very little about the art of Islamic calligraphy. How was your work received and appraised in these countries?

A: Exhibitions in these countries are not necessarily arranged directly by the governments. Usually, Islamic organizations or independent art foundations arrange these exhibitions and competitions with the financial support of the governments (sometimes). So people who have knowledge of calligraphy normally attend these exhibitions and do the appraisals.

Q: How would you rate the artwork of Iran’s Kufic calligraphers?

A: Iranians are good in Mus’hafi Kufic but they don’t do much compositional Kufic. Their compositional Kufic isn’t bad, but only a very few calligraphers practice in this form.

In contrast, since the time of Mir Emad Hassani (1554-1615), Iranians have dominated nastaliq calligraphy.

In nastaliq, taliq, and nastaliq shekasteh calligraphy, the Iranians are the best in the world and I don’t think anyone can compete with them in this category.

Q: What is the difference between Pakistani nastaliq and Iranian nastaliq? And which one do you think is aesthetically more pleasing?

A: Actually, there is a big difference between the two. Pakistani nastaliq and Iranian nastaliq are two different scripts. Pakistanis and Iranians are each good in their own form of nastaliq. Of course for me, at first Pakistani nastaliq was aesthetically more pleasing, but once I understood Iranian nastaliq, it became just as pleasing.

Q: Can you tell me more about Kufic script?

A: (A variation of) Kufic script is mainly used in composition. Newspapers and books are generally published in this script, which has many different styles. The Iranians, Egyptians, Syrians, and Iraqis all have their own unique styles. Egyptians are good in Kufic Fatmhi while Iraqis are really good in Kufic Musli.

However, when I participated in four Kufic Fatmhi competitions held in Egypt in 2004 and 2008, I managed to win in all four.

Q: The Turks changed their script from a variation of Arabic to a variation of the Roman alphabet in 1928. So how do they still compete in this traditional Islamic calligraphy?

A: As you know, the Turks are very proud of their nation’s heritage. They do not abandon their customs easily and have kept alive their traditions of Islamic calligraphy by providing heavy funding to institutions promoting calligraphy. Their teachers are highly qualified and work very diligently with their students. As a result, they hold a monopoly on tholth and naskh scripts.

Q: Could you elaborate on Iranians’ mastery of nastaliq calligraphy?

A: The Iranians are simply the best in nastaliq calligraphy. Iran won’t even allow anyone to come close to the high standards they have established in this art. There is competition going on, correct, but the Iranians set the standard. They do their best to prevent anyone from even approaching their level much less surpassing it. The Iranians work very hard at this and do not reveal the secrets of their nastaliq calligraphy to others. My teacher once told me, “If you want to learn nastaliq calligraphy, you first have to learn Persian because only then can you learn the secrets of nastaliq calligraphy.” This guarded approach is not only taken by Iranians, but also by Turks, who likewise don’t reveal the secrets of their script. The Iranians have a long history in nastaliq calligraphy and maintain the lofty standards set by Mir Emad Hassani and other great masters, just as the Turks maintain those set by Mostafa Rakib, who led them toward modern calligraphy. Initially, the Turks followed the Arabs, but now many Arabs follow standards set by Turkish calligraphers.

Q: How do you rate Arabs in calligraphy?

A: The Arabs do well in Islamic calligraphy, and while many Arab countries produce good work, Syria is simply outstanding in this art. Over the past six or seven years, the Syrians have been winning at all of the major calligraphy competitions.

I’ve noticed that for the past three or four years, the Arabs have been trying their best to compete with the Turks to regain their lost glory in Islamic calligraphy. To some extent they have succeeded, and the Syrians have played a major role.

Most of the great calligraphers are now from Syria, like Farooq Al Haddad, Hassam Shoukat Matti, and Ahmed Amin Shimta. However, there are some good ones from Egypt and Iraq as well.

Q: How many international competitions have you participated in? And which prize gave you the most satisfaction?

A: I‘ve participated in eleven international competitions. I finished in first place in nine competitions and secured third and fourth in the other two.

The IRCICA Incentive Prize in Istanbul in 2003 is my favorite because if someone wins the IRCICA competition, he is declared a master calligrapher and then other people follow him in calligraphy.

Q: How was the Quranic exhibition that was held in Tehran?

A: I have traveled to many countries, but I swear by Almighty Allah that I have never seen such admiration, appreciation, and enthusiasm for Islamic arts and calligraphy as I have seen here in Iran.

Iranians are great art lovers. In other countries, people don’t come to Islamic calligraphy exhibitions in such great numbers as they do here. I think millions of people have visited the Quranic art exhibition during the past 20 days or so.

I’ve also noticed that Iranians are not only good in one or two forms of art but they excel in numerous art forms such as painting, sculpture, calligraphy, intarsia, and illustration.

And I also think the Iranian government provides adequate support for all these various branches of art.

The arrangements made by the Iranian government were admirable. Delegations from almost sixty countries have participated in this exhibition.

The Iranian government is spending a lot of money on these exhibitions, and I don’t think any other Islamic country -- even Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, or Egypt -- is spending as much money for the promotion of these arts. I congratulate the Iranian government for the service it is providing for the promotion of the Islamic arts and the dissemination of Quranic teachings, and I appeal to other Islamic countries to follow Iran’s example in this regard.


Quebec Writer Nelly Arcan Dies at 35

Iran News: Celebrated Quebec writer Nelly Arcan was found dead in her Montreal apartment late Thursday evening. She was 35 years old.

Arcan's first novel, Putain, enjoyed critical success when it was published in 2001. It was a finalist for both the Prix Médicis and the Prix Femina in France. It was later translated into English under the title Whore.

She quickly became a literary star in Quebec and in France.

A spokeswoman for her publishing house Coup de tête, Myriam Comtois, confirmed Arcan's death, but refused to elaborate on what might have caused it. But Montreal police said Friday they are treating it as a suicide.

Arcan had just finished writing a novel, Paradis clef en main, which was to be published by Coup de tête.

Montreal writer Pierre Thibeault worked with Arcan at the magazine Ici, and at TV's Canal Vox.

He said Friday she was the most important feminist writer in Quebec in recent years.

But, he said, the young author tended to keep to herself.

"She was a mysterious person. She was a real writer, and what I mean by that is she was not talking much about her personal life or the work she was doing. If she was writing a book she was not talking about it to people. If she was writing it, she was keeping it to herself," Thibeault said.

Arcan was born Isabelle Fortier in Quebec's Eastern Townships.


Gore Vidal, Dave Eggers to Receive Honorary National Book Awards

Iran News: Congratulations, Gore Vidal. The author, playwright and political commentator will receive an honorary National Book Award medal this fall for "Distinguished Contribution to American Letters." Vidal, who turns 84 next month, is known for such best sellers as "Burr" and "Lincoln," and for the play "The Best Man."

Award organizers also announced Tuesday that Dave Eggers, 39, will be presented the "Literarian Award" for community service. Eggers, whose books include "A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius," helped found 826 Valencia, which works with young people to develop writing skills, and has centers based in San Francisco, New York and several other cities.

The ceremony for the National Book Awards, now in their 60th year, will be held Nov. 18. Author-comedian Andy Borowitz will host.

German Writer Hans Magnus Enzensberger Wins Sonning Prize for Promoting European Culture

Iran News: German writer Hans Magnus Enzensberger was awarded Denmark's 2010 Sonning Prize on Wednesday, which honors work that benefits European culture.

The University of Copenhagen said Enzensberger, 79, will receive the prize and 1 million kroner (about $200,000) during a ceremony in February.

Enzensberger has left "considerable footprints in literature, essays and journalism" and consistently discussed Europe in his works, the university said.

In its citation, the university said Enzensberger is "a poet and an intellectual who with humor, irony and hidden warmth dares to say 'no' and yet 'yes' in his own way, and in that way it seems appropriate."

The university singled out his 1987 prose "Oh, Europe" in which "he describes and dissects the cultures and customs of a number of European countries. The common thread proved to be their single-mindedness."

"For him, Europe is neither a single unit nor a series of isolated units," the citation said.

Enzensberger debuted with his first poetry collection in 1957, and has since published more than 50 works that include an impressive range of poems, novels, plays and scientific works.

The biennial award has been handed out since 1950 in honor of late Danish writer Carl Johan Sonning. Previous recipients include Czech President Vaclav Havel, Swedish film director Ingmar Bergman and German Nobel literature laureate Guenter Grass.

Italian architect Renzo Piano won the award in 2008.

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