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Light Calligraphy: A Spiritual Art

Khadiga El-Ghawas practices T'ai Chi and other deep-meditation exercises in order to perfect the movements she needs to create her ethereal light calligraphy images.

You may have heard of a collective called Wamda that cropped up about a year ago, as the first duo creating light calligraphy art in Egypt. The duo was made up of Khadiga El-Ghawas and Amira Elsammak, who pooled their respective talents to create a series of light calligraphy portraits in various settings in Egypt.

The two have since split up, but Khadiga El-Ghawas, who is behind the light calligraphy aspect of the photo series (Elsammak photographed the series) continues to create captivating light calligraphy continuously, and has produced various independent projects.

"Light calligraphy is like normal light painting, but I insert elements of traditional Arabic calligraphy into it," El-Ghawas says. "You use the same camera exposure, and you write in the air by the camera. But we write the Arabic calligraphy from left to right because it reverses on the camera."

El-Ghawas has been practicing calligraphy since she was 6 years old, and has won various awards, including the Bibliotheca Alexandrina award for Arabic calligraphy. It wasn't until much later that she began to get interested in transferring her well-honed calligraphy skills into the medium of light painting.

For her, it's as much about the art as it is a spiritual practice. El-Ghawas has practiced T'ai Chi and other meditative exercises in order to perfect her art. It requires a lot of concentration, meditation and inner strength to be able to maintain the right kinds of movements to be able to create the final product.

"It's a 20 minute process of getting my whole body to get adjusted and balance the right movements in order to create the image," she says. "I need to do certain exercises and study them very well to make sure my movements are right and balanced."

"It's spiritual. I like to focus on the spiritual energy behind the calligraphy letters," she says; something that is seen in many of her projects, such as her last series, the Women's Empowerment Project, sponsored by the Swedish Institute. The project focuses on words that represent women positively, and affirm her vital role in society.

El-Ghawas is one of only five artists or art collectives around the world who produce light calligraphy, and was the first to bring the ethereally beautiful art to Egypt.

You can find more of her art here.