A modernist style that emerged in the latter half of the 20th century around the "Middle East" and North Africa.



"though Western art is often cited as the primary influence behind hurufiyah abstraction, perhaps one could conclude that modern hurufiyah art was just a further abstraction of traditional Arabic calligraphy...

...As Middle Eastern Islamic countries gained independence from colonial rule in the early to mid twentieth century, they faced a growing tension: the need to understand and express their cultural identity while at the same time reconcile Western values and norms that had been imposed upon them. In the visual arts, the hurufiyah movement resolved this tension by incorporating Arabic text into art pieces while still retaining many of the Western art forms that had been learned. " [1]

"In Iran, artists responded to criticism of western influence and incorporated popular symbols of Shi’a culture alongside writing and calligraphy. More recently, letters have become a more dominant visual element, written or painted in a free, at times deconstructed, format. Those letters do not always form meaningful words but are included because of their symbolism and the beauty of their shapes. Artists use script to communicate many different messages, often touching on their own personal identity and life experiences. They may respond to political events, for instance the 2011 ‘Arab Spring’, or offer social commentary on topics such as women’s roles within society. Compositions often draw on the heritage of the artist but present it in new ways, sometimes employing different media from photography to ceramics." [2]

" Within the expression European connection, however, Tunisian culture did actively recognize and build their Arab connection. Prominent Tunisian painter and printmaker Nja Mahdaoui arabized his paintings by taking part in the only pan-Arab art movement since the early 1900s (Naef 2003). Arab identifying artists appropriated the hurufiyya, a use of form inspired by Arab letters, to establish their Arab identity (Naef 2003). Artist Mahdaoui reflected the larger attachment to the Arab world through using hurufiyya to align his work with the ‘“gesture’ of the [Arabic] calligrapher” (Naef 2003)."[3]

see also Lettrism



, 1985[7]

w:Golnaz Fathi (Iran) - Untitled, 2006[9] w:Lalla Essaydi - Les Femmes du Maroc, 2005[10] w:Laura Boushnak - Kuwait - I Read I Write: Egypt - Illiterate Classes, 2011 CE[11] w:eL Seed (Tunisia/ France) - “calligraffiti.”[12]




‘WORD INTO ART: Artists of the Modern Middle East’ at the British Museum http://www.sbtd.co.uk/uploads/K2K/Summer%202006/K2Ksum06%20page%2028.pdf



  1. https://mjmes.wordpress.com/2013/03/08/article-5/#_ftn7
  2. http://qalam.squarespace.com/hurrufiya/
  3. https://wordpeacedotco.wordpress.com/2013/10/15/calligraffiti-hurufiyya-in-tunisia/
  4. http://wwol.is.asu.edu/ali.html
  5. http://www.askart.com/artist/Mahmoud_Hammad/11105543/Mahmoud_Hammad.aspx
  6. http://africa.si.edu/exhibits/encounters/mahdaoui.htm
  7. https://wordpeacedotco.wordpress.com/2013/10/15/calligraffiti-hurufiyya-in-tunisia/
  8. http://www.christies.com/lotfinder/prints-multiples/kamal-boullata-nurala-nur-5168251-details.aspx
  9. http://qalam.squarespace.com/hurrufiya/
  10. http://qalam.squarespace.com/hurrufiya/
  11. http://qalam.squarespace.com/hurrufiya/
  12. https://wordpeacedotco.wordpress.com/2013/10/15/calligraffiti-hurufiyya-in-tunisia/
  13. Nada M. Shabout, Modern Arab Art: Formation of Arab Aesthetics (Gainesville: University Press of Florida, 2007), 15-16.