Arabic Calligraphy

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Religious Stories

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TUSIF AHMAD

A R T I S T

I am a self-taught paper cutting artist based in Western Australia. In the past decade, I’ve created hundreds of art pieces, ranging from a CEO’s portrait, to the story of Prophet Jonah and the whale, to the first chapter of the Quran in Arabic. I love seeing people’s reactions when they see my art; often they can’t believe that it’s been done by hand, or that it’s made from a single piece of paper, or that it took more than four or five months to create a single piece.

I want my art to build bridges of understanding. That’s why I focus on depicting stories that faith traditions have in common and sharing verses from the Quran that reveal the values of Islam. It’s why I get excited when my designs and details encourage people to look closer and examine the art more carefully, to ask questions, and to learn about the themes represented. I hope that my art can reveal the beauty of my faith and help dispel misperceptions about Islam. Because for me, it’s not just about selling a piece of art, it’s about sharing something beautiful, making a connection, and leaving a positive mark on the world.

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PROCESS

Paper cutting art is a multi-step process. The first step is researching the story or verse I want to depict. Sketching the ideas can often be the most intensive part of the process – coming up with creative ways to share a theme, figuring out the positive and negative space, making sure each part of the design feels connected. If I’m using colors, I draw the overlaying designs on each colored paper and make sure the overall design aligns perfectly. If calligraphy is involved, I draw a mirror image of the Arabic calligraphy, as the design is cut from the backside of a piece of paper. The process of cutting, as you can imagine, is time intensive. The small details need to be cut first – each tiny leaf, each small star – otherwise the piece would become too fragile to work with. I’m usually draped over my dining room table cutting from different sides, making sure each cut is precise; if I make even a small mistake, I need to start over. Each piece can take three or four or five months to complete. But I love the process. I have my headphones on when I’m cutting, listening to Sabri Brothers qawwali (Sufi poetry), loose all track of time and continue to create all through the night. For me, it’s meditative. I hope you find the result soothing too.