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Lecture 5

ARTH 301 Lecture Notes - Lecture 5: Dari Language, Japanese Calligraphy, Zoomorphism

Art History and Visual Culture
Course Code
ARTH 301
T'ai Smith

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In last Friday’s MOA exhibition tour Traces of Words: Art and Calligraphy from Asia, Dr
Fuyubi Nakamuta, who is interested in Japan and the diaspore of India, told us the
collection constitutes of a vast Asian collection that is the largest in the museum about
40 per cent of the total holdings. During the 3-year preparation of the exhibition, she
invites Professors of different departments to make research on collections, as she can't
specialise in all cultures.
I was impressed by how the exhibition makes us reflect on the cultural significance and
artistic representations of Asian words and writing along time, from calligraphy, incised
tools, painting to digital and mixed media. The words represented are physical traces of
time and space. From Arabic manuscripts to “words as objects” that marked the
beginning of writing in the ancient Mesopotamia, by incising writing on East Asian tools
like clay, animal bones and turtle shells. Asia has an enormous diversity of languages
and writing systems. Writing, especially calligraphy is a revered form that has played a
social and political role.
For instance, the contemporary art exhibition as part of the Audain Art Gallery,
showcased international artists like Shamsia Hassani and Norste who create symbolic
calligraphy, being aware that it can’t be understood by all audiences. Hassani believes
that the meaning of a word is different from the shape of a word so that the artworks can
speak to people in different languages. I could understand the aesthetics and cultural
significance, but not its work and still feel for the artworks.
First, the Iranese street art and digital graffiti artist, Shamsia Hassani, painted graffiti in
the streets of Kabul with the political aim to empower the streets by coloring them and
washing away the war memories. She often paints women in burqas, and fish; and also
calligraphy that is both legible and symbolic through texts in her own Dari language.
Second, the Tibetan artist Nortse who focuses on mixed-media also has a
sociopolitical focus to evoke memories of conflict during the Cultural Revolution in the
1960s. Her piece Book of Ashes contains burned manuscripts spread across the floor
atop piles of sand; the calligraphy is overlapped and can’t be understood.
Karina Perez
Tutorial: L03
what the specific artwork of calligraphy meant, she responded by saying that the "act"
of writing/"the practice" of the artist expressing herself is heavily more important
than the final product which is "not necessarily for viewers to understand".
Dr Fuyubi Nakamuta
Socioantrhopologist and curator
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