Kerala’s new calligraphic niche

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Parvathy V Nair

Calligraphy or ‘Kareemgraphy’ as Abdul Kareem stylizes it, is not just an aesthetic but also an important medium of discourse. A mostly self-taught calligrapher, the Malappuram native draws his inspiration from the world around. This is evident from his social media posts that is abreast of all political developments.

Kareem also doesn’t shy away from discussing taboo subjects. It is in this light that his post on his mother became viral. Kareem who currently works at an advertising agency at Doha shares his regrets of not being able to show physical intimacy to his mother. He recalls how his father’s death shattered their world and this was followed by his mother’s death a year later. Appalled at his own reluctance to hug and sleep next to his mother, he gives rise to a conversation of gender dynamics that comes to play in moments of such physical intimacy. One wouldn’t be bothered by a daughter hugging her mother. So then why does it have to be frowned upon? Kareem admits that after the initial jitters, he is reverted to his old schoolboy self that latched on to his mother.His words on how such moments are taken for granted is touching. As a tribute to his late parents, he has etched out calligraphy on their grave stones. He laments at how he was not fortunate enough to gift them with his calligraphy when they were alive.

In a few words Kareem was able to connect with many who echoed similar concerns especially men. Kareem’s ability to relate with others influences his calligraphy. One should note his early art of a man carrying his wife’s corpse. The heart wrenching creation inspired from real life catapulted him into overnight fame on social media.

Kareem’s canvas is not new to public attention. For someone who churns out viral posts, he has been chosen as a ‘Youth Icon’ by Youth Forum of Qatar—a group of young Indian expatriates, in cooperation with Doha International Center for Interfaith Dialogue. 

Art has the power to explore human behavior. It stands for humanity, kindness, responsibility and beauty and I try to communicate these values and feelings to others through my art.

Despite an impressive lineup of awards and celebrity admirers, Kareem is not done. An overzealous artist who even ran off to Bombay just to see the graffiti as a child, the next on his list is China and Iran. In addition to researching upon the calligraphy culture, he dreams of doing a cultural show. He hopes to make the world a better place through his artistic lenses.

Parvathy V Nair is studying MA Communication at University of Hyderabad

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