About the artist

My name is Mustafa Ja’far. I am a visual artist and written words are my raw material.

The Arabic language and its calligraphy are the most indispensable components of my culture. I don’t see Arabic calligraphy as a “conservative” art form associated mainly with religion. I see it as a medium or as a language. As such, it is what you say that matters and not the language per se.

Artists who are capable of producing quality calligraphic work, are entitled to put their art in a non-religious context and free themselves from the typical confines of the sacred. Tradition is not worshipping the ashes, but preserving the flame.*

The focus of my work is primarily on poetry from all over the world, which I initially translate into Arabic and then set in calligraphic compositions. Great verses that put the human experience centre stage are my favourite subject matter.

I studied art in Baghdad and Rome (1969-78) and worked as creative director for more than a decade. I taught Arabic calligraphy for the University of London at the British Museum (2001-13). Black Words in Red Ink: Iraq War in a Calligraphic Installation, was my last solo show in London.

*A quote by Gustav Mahler (1860-1911)