Artist educates city residents about Arab community with calligraphy workshop

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One of Nada Odeh’s goals for her “Arabic Calligraphy and Plant Art” workshop is to bring the Syracuse community together to experience cultures outside of their own, including Arab culture, Odeh said.

Odeh, an artist based in Syracuse, hopes to bridge the gap between the city of Syracuse and its Arab community with her workshop “Arabic Calligraphy and Plant Arts”. The workshop helps participants learn about the history of Arabic calligraphy and create Arabic calligraphy themselves.

“There is a large Arabic community here, but we are also looking for people who want to… understand my language. I want people to understand my culture. But it’s not just my culture, it’s the culture of thousands of people in Syracuse and central New York, ”Odeh said.

Part of the workshop focuses on the origins of Arab art and how it evolved from its
beginnings around the 7th century AD Odeh – who held a workshop Saturday at the Salt City market – will present the workshop again on October 17 from 1 p.m. to 2:30 p.m. at the market.

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During the workshops, Odeh presents works by contemporary Arab artists such as eL Seed and Khaled Al-Saai in the Community Hall of the Salt City Market. The workshop ends with a demonstration on how to create Arabic calligraphy and a chance for participants to learn to create Arabic calligraphy on their own.

This workshop came to fruition when Adam Sudmann, director of Salt City Market, asked Odeh to present his knowledge of the history of Arab arts and teach participants how to create Arab art. Sudmann said he sees his market as a place not only to display food from other cultures, but also the arts.

Sudmann said he hopes events like the workshop Odeh is hosting will help redress the cultural separation seen in the Syracuse community. He said that with Syracuse being one of the most “infamous” segregated cities, events like this are needed to end the ethnic and racial separation present in the community.

“The good news is that we are a very diverse community,” Sudmann said. “We just don’t have spaces to cross paths. A lot of the magic is there… if we create a space, maybe the magic of our city can draw us into that space ”

Sunday’s workshop will be the second hosted by Odeh this month. On Saturday, Odeh hosted the workshop for an enthusiastic audience. Workshop participants created their own Arabic calligraphy and were excited to branch out from what they knew.

“I love learning new artistic techniques,” said Abigail Brunner, a workshop participant. “Something different from my job, something I can do for fun. I’m also interested in Arab culture, so learning how art interacts with their culture is interesting.

Odeh displayed contemporary Arabic art and demonstrated Arabic calligraphy before giving attendees the chance to try it out for themselves.Anthony Bailey | Contributing writer

Milton Loayza, professor at SUNY Oswego, also attended the workshop on Saturday. He said he was drawn to it because of his interest in learning about cultures other than his own.

“I wanted to do something relaxing on a (Saturday) and explore something, something different,” Loayza said. “Anything that has engaged people in the arts is important, especially if it is cross-cultural, cross-cultural activities or exploring and meeting new people. This is all really, really positive. “

Loayza said he became interested in Arab art after visiting southern Spain and seeing the historic mosques in Cordoba and Granada. Going to this workshop allowed him to contextualize the art he saw in these buildings, he said.

While learning to create Arabic calligraphy gives participants a new skill to learn, Odeh said she understands that they won’t become masters overnight, especially if they don’t know the language. Writing in Arabic calligraphy is not easy and not knowing what you are writing only adds to the difficulty, Odeh said. She hopes, however, that participants will gain more from the workshop than just a new skill.

“I want to focus more on visual arts and Islamic arts and how we can make patterns and patterns out of them,” Odeh said. “Maybe we can build something together that allows this culture to have something unique here in downtown New York. So hopefully things will be nicer, better. “

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