A newspaper in Abu Dhabi published a profile of an artist whose work is seen on many Arabic banknotes.
Not many artists can say their work is owned by millions. Mohammed al Mandi, however, is among those select few.
He is one of the only master calligraphers in the Middle East. His angular designs can be found on every banknote in the UAE and Bahrain, as well as the passports of the UAE, Bahrain, Oman, Qatar and Kuwait.
Whether it is through banknotes, passports or live shows, becoming a publicly accessible artist is the realisation of a dream for the father of four.
"I never wanted to be an artist who only worked on commission for clients," he said. "I wanted as many people as possible to see my work. Now every person has my art in his pocket."
Al Mandi, 50, is known for his distinct style of overlapping words on canvas. He also teaches calligraphy at the National Theatre as part of a project run by the Abu Dhabi Authority for Culture & Heritage.
But his proudest achievement was his art that was ingrained into public life, he said. He started designing money in 1999 with a Dh50 silver coin, released to mark the 30th anniversary of Abu Dhabi Chamber of Commerce & Industry.
In 2005, he was approached on behalf of the Central Bank to design the Arabic script for the new Dh200 note. Soon after, he would add his mark to the rest of the country's paper money, and was commissioned to do the same for Bahrain's currency, as well as the 200 and 1,000 Syrian pound notes.
Al Mandi was drawn to the art form as a teenager. "I remember seeing [it] for the first time in a textbook when I was 15 years old. It was like looking at a picture, not letters or words. I was fascinated by its beauty."
He began reading stories about famous ancient calligraphers and buying books on the art.
"I began to absorb as much information as I could about calligraphy," he said. "I studied the proportion of the letters, which is the most important thing because you have to follow measurements for the writing to turn out correctly." Following in the footsteps of the living masters of the art at the time, al Mandi left the UAE after high school and enrolled in the Arabic Calligraphy Improvement School in Cairo.
To read the complete article, see:
The artist in everyone's wallets
Wayne Homren, Editor
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