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Posted On: 13 September 2009 10:20 am
Updated On: 12 November 2020 02:10 pm

Artist tasked with gift fit for a king

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Renowned Islamic calligraphy artist and VCUQatar Joint Advisory Board member Mohamed Zakariya has been commissioned by US President Barack Obama to create a gift for King Abdullah bin Abdulaziz of Saudi Arabia. The gift is a work of Islamic calligraphy in Arabic Sulus script with ink and gold on Ahar paper, with Ebru borders and backing, for the occasion of Obama’s visit to the Middle East. Taken from the Qur’an (Chapter 49: Verse 13), the English translation of the script reads: “O people, we created you from the same male and female, and rendered you distinct peoples and tribes, that you may recognise one another. The noblest among you in God’s sight is the most conscientious of you. God is All-Knowing, All-Aware.” While echoing King Abdullah’s important calls for interfaith and intercultural dialogue, Obama included this quote from the Qur’an in his speech at Cairo University in Egypt on June 4. “I am deeply honoured that President Obama chose my work as part of his historic initiative to open new doors between America and the Muslim world. I believe Islamic art can be a fitting ambassador of much-hoped-for policy change,” Zakariya said. The artist has been represented exclusively since 2005 by Linearis Institute, whose co-principal and managing director Suleyman Cooke remarked that “the profound power of art has played a key role in the President delivering his message of inclusion.” Zakariya is described as an American master of Islamic calligraphy. With no formal education, he learned his trades in aerospace industry machine shops, in the Los Angeles atelier of Oscar Meyer, the French impresario of antiques and objects de virtue, at the British Museum and at Istanbul’s Research Centre for Islamic Art, History, and Culture, where he earned two licences in Islamic calligraphy - the first Westerner to do so. Since settling in the Washington, DC, area in 1972, Zakariya has travelled frequently to Turkey and the Arabian Gulf and has exhibited and lectured extensively in the US and abroad. Known for his design of the “Eid Greetings” US postage stamp, he concentrates primarily on classical Arabic and Ottoman Turkish calligraphy.