Afjei, a master Persian Calligrapher

This is one of the most beautiful renditions of my Persian name, Dordaneh (a unique pearl—dor: pearl, daneh: one, unique):

It was created for me some years ago by  Nasrollah Afjei, the Iranian master painter calligrapher. I visited his most recent works at the Gallerie Nicolas Flamel in Paris some time ago;  I felt a  great sense of admiration and satisfaction in front of his beautiful canvases like this one:

The following is one of his more recent ones from the “Siah Mashgh” series; as young students in Iran, we all had to practice our calligraphy with special pens and the exercises were called Siah Mashgh or the black homework because of the extra black ink!

Even though Persian and Arabic use the same alphabet (Persian has 4 more letters than Arabic which has 28), the writing is way more beautiful and lends itself  better to calligraphy. “Nas’taliq” is the most popular contemporary Persian calligraphy style.

The Persian script is exclusively written cursively: the majority of letters in a word connect to each other. A characteristic feature of this script, possibly tracing back to Ancient Egyptian hieroglyphs, is that much to the chagrin of foreigners vowels are underrepresented! It’s a bit like shorthand with consonants but mostly omitted vowels.

“In comparison to Europe and North America calligraphy is a far more popular and practiced form of art in Iran and in most other countries around this area. You can spot at least one piece of calligraphy hung on the walls of most Iranian households.”

Since the script is cursive, the appearance of a letter changes depending on its position: isolated, beginning (joined on the left), middle (joined on both sides), and end (joined on the right) of a word.

Afjei is a genius in morphing them into a beautiful image that is part painting and part calligraphy…

I am wondering how Mister Afjei would create his masterpieces had he to work with the old Persian Cuneiform!

For those of you who can still read Persian, here is the poem that Nasrollah Afjei painted/calligraphed for me from the 14th century Persian poet, Shah Nematollah Vali. The main verse where you find my name roughly means “each one of us has a beautiful unique pearl”:

و لیکن هر یکی‌ از ما نکو دردانه ای‌ داریم

اگر رندی و می نوشی بیا میخانه ای داریم

و گر تو عشق می بازی نکو جانانه ای داریم

اگر از عقل می پرسی ندارد نزد ما قدری

وگر مجنون همی جوئی دل دیوانه ای داریم

درین خلوتسرای دل نشسته دلبری با ما

هزاران جان فدای او که خوش میخانه ای داریم

تو گر گنجی همی جوئی در آ در کنج دل با ما

که گنج ما بود معمور و در ویرانه ای داریم

همه غرقیم و سرگردان درین دریای بی پایان

ولیکن هر یکی از ما نکو دُردانه ای داریم

چنین جائی که ما داریم به نزد او چه خواهد بود

برای شمع عشق او عجب پروانه ای داریم

خراباتست و ما سرمست و سید جام می بر دست

درین میخانهٔ باقی ، می مستانه ای داریم

Visit this great site for some amazing calligraphy here.

8 thoughts on “Afjei, a master Persian Calligrapher

  1. How do you want me to concentrate on my work, when I see such marvels in front of my eyes !

    I am very proud to have some persian work at home (the book of artistic (and much more) illustrations from Mahmoud Farshchian and a selection of the poems (in french and persian) from Sohrâb Sepehrî.
    “Il doit être minuit.
    On dirait que la Grande Ourse est à deux pas du toit.
    Le ciel n’est pas bleu.
    Pourtant le jour l’a été”
    extrait de “L’exil” (sauf erreur de ma part)

  2. Very cool. Makes me think of Hundertwasser, born Dreiwasser. As an artist, he felt that three waters was not big enough. Glad that Einstein was of a different mind, as are you!

  3. Montesquieu se demandait comment l’on pouvait être persan. En voyant de telles merveilles, il faut se demander comment on peut ne pas l’être.

  4. Dear Michele:
    These are very nice calligraphic works. Once bearing your name even make it more striking. I am not sure if Afjei picked this Vali’s verse for you, or coincidently you noticed it when visiting the exhibition? Anyhow, as you said the name “Dordaneh” has been used in Persian poetry a lot. I wish I had the time and the right mind to quote them here, but it refers to one’s uniqueness quality so dearly appreciated by another. Dor means Pearl and Daneh means one or in this case Drop. So Dordaneh refers to a pearl drop or a gem within.
    You are a pearl drop unique of your kind.
    Thank you

  5. Dearest Michelle(Dordaneh), nice calligraphic work post…telles merveilles!!
    Enjoyed my eyes going thru them. Thanks for all your amazing work and posts.

  6. I think this is serendipity! Only a month ago, I realized I had developed a unique bond with the local mosque where I have been walking to every evening. I reach half an hour earlier for the Maghrib namaz soon after sunset. The mosque is a bare-bones type structure of three stories that sees up to 400 namazis throng on Fridays but every sunset, we find no more than 20-22 souls queuing up for the namaz.

    I often sit staring at a beautiful, long marble plaque that has green letters done is stylistic calligraphy,
    the first qalmah… La ilaha Illal lah Muhammudur rasulllillah… the whole piece has such a mystic charm, I have got attracted to the hoary art of calligraphy.

    My maternal uncle Bashir Ahmed Khan Babi, who died in Pakistan some 10 years ago, was a
    Sufi murshid (saint – teacher) who was such an exalted artist, he had once written the entire Sura-e-fatah ( al humdullillah-e-rabbil-alameen…) on one single grain of rice. We used to use a magnifying glass of six inch diameter to be able to decipher it.

    He was a gifted painter and devoted years to calligraphy.

    During a recent illness, I too doodled and dawdled on blank sheets and realized I am not bad at all, when it comes to my own interpretations of the Arabic and the Persian ( even Urdu) scripts, I follow the Nastaliq tradition. I am serious about doing much more – turning the calligraphic inscriptions into more evolved works of art.

    This is an amazing art, Nasrollah Afjei seems like a highly evolved artist in a class all his own.

    Thanks for sharing,

  7. Ayant vécu quelques mois à Tehran cette année, grâce à l’une de mes amies, j’ai eu la chance de rencontrer l’un de vos calligraphes, Einoddin Sadeghzadeh, une très belle rencontre, enrichissante et passionnante.
    Merci pour cette nouvelle découverte.

  8. I am happy that we can know a little more about Iran may be we should to say about Persia which is unknow for lots of people I love persian calligraphy i am a member of persian calligraphy group on Facebook i try to know to learny about it so any kind of sources more is so good for me

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