Lecture: Calligrams in Islamic Southeast Asia


About The Lecture

Calligrams, or figurative calligraphy, are texts that have been shaped into images and may represent inanimate objects or living beings. Straddling the line between text and image, and combining the power of both, calligrams have been used for devotional and talismanic purposes in various parts of the Islamic world, particularly Iran, Ottoman Turkey, and India.

In Southeast Asia, calligrams are also used as talismanic devices across various media such as manuscripts, woodwork and textiles. This lecture will focus on two types of calligrams that are found in the region. The first is in the form of a large feline, and is usually associated with the Prophet Muḥammad’s cousin and son-in-law ʿAli’, and thus is commonly referred to as ‘The Lion/Tiger of ‘Ali’’. The other is in the form of a ship, composed of the names of the Seven Sleepers of Ephesus, a legend related in the Qur’an. This lecture will investigate the forms and uses of these calligrams and place them within the broader context of Southeast Asia and the Islamic world.

About The Speaker

Farouk Yahya (PhD, SOAS University of London, 2013) is currently Leverhulme Research Assistant in Islamic Art and Culture at the Ashmolean Museum, University of Oxford. His research interests include illustrated and illuminated manuscripts of Southeast Asia and the Islamic world, particularly those relating to magic and divination. He is the author of Magic and Divination in Malay Illustrated Manuscripts (Leiden: Brill, 2016) and editor of The Arts of Southeast Asia from the SOAS Collections (Penang: Areca Books, 2017).


For registration, please fill in this form and email to nscevents@iseas.edu.sg by 4 December 2017.


Dec 05 2017


3:00 pm - 4:30 pm


Library Demo Room