"By the way," Prithvi Subba Gurung, Minister for Culture, Tourism and Civil Aviation, who had come to inaugurate the launching of the first Nepali calligraphy website, www.calligraphynepal.com <http://www.calligraphynepal.com>, whispered uneasily to the person sitting adjacently to him on the podium, "What does calligraphy actually mean?"
The encounter was ironic enough to sweep the hall with laughter. However, when it came to the pinch, most of them in the audience did not know it, either.
"Calligraphy is an art of beautiful writing," simplified artist Bal Gopal Kapali who has been practicing it since 1979 when he had the opportune moment to meet the famous American calligrapher Frank Ellioott.
Etymologically, calligraphy can the dissected into two Greek words — kallos (beautiful) and graphia (handwriting). Therefore, one may as well sum it up as an art of beautiful writing, as Kapali said.
But, of course, that is not just all.
Calligraphy can be found in different forms of religious art, stone inscriptions, wedding and event invitations, typography, logo designs, graphic designs, memorial documents, props and moving images for film and television, testimonials, birth and death certificates, maps and other works involving texts deserving stylistic pampering.
Historically speaking, Nepali calligraphy started from the oldest available inscription on the Ashokan Pillar of Lumbini, which can approximately be dated back to 254 BC. The inscription written in Brahmi script is based on Buddha's sermons.
In the West, calligraphy eventually evolved from the earliest cave paintings, such as those at Lascaux, France (35,000-20,000 BC), into the abstractions that became the familiar letterforms of the alphabet.
About 3,500 BC, the ancient Egyptians created a form of picture writing called hieroglyphs—meaning sacred inscriptions—usually incised on monuments or inside tombs. Hieroglyphs were also written on papyrus, an early form of paper made from a plant growing along the Nile. Its earliest examples date from the fifth dynasty (2465-2323 BC) of the Pharaohs. These scribbles are usually considered the prototypes of what were to be the modern-day calligraphy.
Western calligraphy, however, came to its formal styling only after the invention of Roman alphabets in the late 600 BC.
In that regard, Eastern calligraphy that primarily embraces the Brahmi, Lichchhavi, Ranjana, Bhugimol, Pachumol and Devnagari Lipi, has quite a rich history. Unfortunately, it could not prosper and develop in the pace that it should have.
"In fact, many Nepalis aren't even aware of its existence. Given the fact that Nepal has been the epicenter of calligraphic evolution, it is a sheer shame that there aren't any universities which offer academic course in it," Kapali shared his frustration.
"Calligraphy is quite a broad science. Everyone from a kindergarten student to anyone who loves to write beautifully is a calligrapher. Therefore, many people didn't know about it is a stark irony," expressed artist Madan Chitrakar, who is lately working on calligraphic paintings.
And it is apparently so.
Ashish Gautam, 14, who is a fanatic of writing beautifully, was surprised when he knew there is even the science to write beautifully.
"I didn't know there would be anything like that until I saw about it on Kantipur Television one day. I think this is a nice subject. Had it been in our course, it would've been my favorite one," the fifth grade student gushed enthusiastically.
During the late 1950s, artists like Hemraj Shakya and Shankerman Rajbanshi, among others, had worked quite hard to revive this ancient art. And to some extent, they have succeeded in doing so as well.
However, as Nepali art forms entered into the difficult transition from its medieval period into the contemporary one, calligraphy apparently lost its prior charm and luster among the painters. As the result, it was merely confined to the ritual texts of Pundits, Gurujyus and Lamas and this lasted quite until recently.
Perhaps, therefore, the launching of the first Nepali website of calligraphy is the solid example of this revival. Rajneesh Bhandari, 23, who launched this website, is a news reporter at Kantipur Television by profession. Explaining the motive behind this unusual enthusiasm, the young man shared, "Calligraphy is an inevitable part of Nepali art. Nevertheless, unfortunately, it is not incorporated in art history curricula since the late Fifties. So my efforts are small testimonies to their rich contributions to the field of Eastern art."
Nevertheless, even besides this, there have been remarkable works at the grassroots level to promote it.
One such endeavor is Kapali's own informal calligraphy institute where from among the two hundred and twelve students, one hundred and eighty have already graduated. Kapali is one of the calligraphers in Nepal who has been teaching the art for the past three years. Currently, he is conducting special classes in Bhagwan Bahal of Thamel.
"And the result has been quite encouraging. I've already produced second-generation calligraphers," he said smilingly while beckoning to his son Abhisekh Kapali who has diligently shouldered his father's artistic profession.
"This way, my most coveted art of calligraphy will not have to suffer the same fate as before," added he, who left his well-paying job at Janak Shikshya Samagri Kendra to promote calligraphy on the special suggestion of the late King Birendra in 1986.
Moreover, his amiable demeanor said he did not make a wrong decision quitting the job in any case.
Posted on: 2007-10-16 17:38:17 (Server Time)
Edited by kslsanjeeb9, 17 October 2007 - 06:34 AM.