A Beginner's Guide to Andalusi Calligraphy

Medina Whiteman and Zak Whiteman

This is the story of a calligraphic script that is almost extinct, yet which was once a crucial part of the most extraordinary cultural flourishing of the Middle Ages. We trace its journey from Madinah to its pinnacle in Al-Andalus, where we look at the rich context it evolved in. How did this once ubiquitous style fall into disuse, and what remains of it today?

Experts believe that Andalusi style is Europe’s only indigenous way of writing the Qur’an, samples of which can be found in museums and libraries all over the world. Whether they are simple manuscripts, or beautifully ornamented books, many of these rare examples were smuggled out of Al-Andalus, their owners often risking their lives to ensure they weren’t destroyed.

Directed by Zak Whiteman and written and narrated by Critical Muslim contributor Medina Whiteman, the film picks up the trail of a present-day practitioner of Andalusi calligraphy, with whom the documentary-makers explore its origins and evolution. From the history of the script to the techniques and materials involved, it is the story of how something as simple as pen and paper can transform the lives of individuals and societies at the broadest level, conserving and conveying that most valuable of treasures: knowledge.

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