Sami Gharbi Talks about Islamic Calligraphy from Tunisia
by Michell Spoden
Calligraphy is an interesting art dating back to thousands of years in human history. Giving artistic expression to writing for a unique visual effect is closely tied to the artist’s cultural and aesthetic experience. My guest today for an interview about this art is a Tunisian calligrapher and music artist whose work reflects an amalgam of cultural experience and personal passion for the art. Let’s welcome Sami Gharbi, a calligrapher from Tunisia whose work is getting appreciation on social media and elsewhere on the Internet.
Michell: Sami, please tell us a little about yourself.
Sami Gharbi: I am 42 years old. I’m a painter, calligrapher (Arabic calligraphy), designer, bass player (in GARBY’S brothers band, a world music band which I launched with my brothers in 2000), lyricist, driving teacher; and I will soon set up a business clothing for women.
Michell: What inspired you to do art? Also, who mainly taught you calligraphy?
Sami Gharbi: I am self-taught. I have had always a very special interest in calligraphy, painting, and the visual arts in general since my childhood. Arabic calligraphy is an art that has always fascinated me and I think it has an irresistible splendor.
Michell: Why did you choose calligraphy and not some other art like painting or sculpture etc?
Sami Gharbi: I love calligraphy; it is not a choice but it is an art that I like. I like all the arts without exception, but the Arabic calligraphy, and painting as well, attract me the most and I feel that I was born to do that.
Michell: Does your culture or spiritual beliefs have anything to do with your art styles?
Sami Gharbi: My culture is Arabic and Muslim, but also Mediterranean, Tunisian, and Amazigh, not to mention that I am a citizen of the world. I am inspired by all that is beautiful in this world, and I have friends everywhere. It is evident that with the spread of Islam, the Arabic alphabet was adapted by several non-Arab nations for writing their own languages, such as Iranian language and Turkish languages and dialects (Kazakh, Uzbek, etc); but the Arabic alphabet developed rapidly after the rise of Islam in the 7th century into a beautiful form of art and many styles of Arabic calligraphy have emerged like le Thuluth, le Diwani, le Kufi etc.
For my part, I use the Arabic letter and its beauty as an artistic tool to express a feeling of joy and happiness and sometimes even feelings of pain or suffering; sometimes I write in my artistic way a Koranic verse or a known proverb or international poems and jargons of different cultures. So I do not focus on my art mainly for my religion (which I love very much).
Michell: Is any of your art currently in galleries or other places?
Sami Gharbi: I occasionally exhibit my art almost everywhere, but it’s the online tool has allowed me to exhibit my works virtually anywhere in the world. Soon I will sign a contract with a gallery in Tunis where my works will be exhibited permanently.
Michell: I have been a bit infatuated with your art styles for a while now. In my personal opinion, you should take your work to the next level. Do you have any plans to market your art or create a greater awareness to it?
Sami Gharbi: I can now say that the artistic calligraphy has radically changed my life (to the good of course). I intend to devote more time to my art, but the demands of everyday life and its problems, especially with the difficult economic situation of my country, do not allow me that unfortunately; so I have to spend a considerable part of my time earning my living by doing other kinds of work. I’m trying to make art my main job, and I, with my wife, will set up a business of clothing for women on which my calligraphy will be apparent and other traditional items and art with my calligraphy work on them. I hope it works (I pray God). I’m not going to settle for the local market but I will try to find markets abroad, and I will continue to improve my art and make a name for myself in the art world by working hard.
Michell: Has computer technology been helpful in creating or trimming your art?
Sami Gharbi: I do not like to use computer programs such as Photoshop to create my artwork, but I confess that the internet has helped me to know my art and let me say I am amazed at the results; the number of fans of my art continues to grow; people of all nationalities contact me all the time; I even signed a contract with a company in Jeddah dealing in designer clothing, and I was invited by the Ambassador of Hungary in Tunisia on the occasion of their National Day.
Michell: Now that sounds really great! For beginners, do you have any suggestions or advice to offer?
Sami Gharbi: My advice to the beginners will be to work hard, have a free spirit, as freedom is the basis of all artistic work; do not fall into pessimism on first experiencing failure; have a sense of research and innovation; and especially do not waste time – life is too short to be wasted.
Michell: And closing this conversation, please tell us whether your work is available online for purchase or if somebody wanted to use any of it in their publication.
Sami Gharbi: Many of my works were sold via internet; some people like my work and want to put them in their home; and some use them as their profile picture on Facebook. Many of my works are for sale. My work may be viewed and purchased at: http://www.facebook.com/samicalligrapher and http://www.facebook.com/samigarbys.
Michell: Sami, thank you very much for sharing your art with us!
Sami Gharbi: Thank you Michell for the interest you have shown in my art. I hope that with art, human beings can live in peace and harmony and I will try by my Arabic calligraphy to send a message of peace and love for humanity.
About the Interviewer
Michell Spoden is a survivor of a cold case rape case and author of the book Stricken Yet Crowned. She has an associate’s degree in Business Science Administration and is presently working on her Bachelors in Project Management.