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Celebrating Tradition, Tehreem Pasha

Tehreem Pasha was born in Karachi and now lives in Dubai. A passion for the Islamic Arts and everything to do with it, she went from graphic design to learning about Islamic traditional arts. Tehreem is a geometer and a trained calligrapher working with Geometric Patterns, Calligraphy and Islamic Illumination/Tehzip, using traditional methods for over 9 years and teaching these methods for over 3 years.

We talk to Tehreem about her journey to becoming an artist specializing in traditional skills.

What was your journey to becoming an artist?

I can say that growing up I was kind of surrounded by art and creative atmosphere if I may. My mother is an Architect Engineer, my aunt is a Fine Artist and always dabbled in creative projects throughout her life and my brother was sketching and drawing from very early on.

The people around me did have a major influence on me as I was at a doodling age, creating random ideas, scribbling away with my crayons and pencils and handing my father a new piece almost every day knowing he always kept it in his wallet for the whole day.

And as I started to progress through school, I always felt it was the right thing to do, I just wanted to create. With that after college, I got in to Karachi School of Arts, where I completed my 2-year certification in Commercial Art / Graphic Design, getting my taste of the digital world of art primarily. Right after that I got into University of Karachi in the Visual Studies department where for my Undergraduate program and completed my Bs. Design (Communication Design).

This was the place where I got introduced to a newly built department of Islamic Arts, this was the moment that would mark my journey in to the world of Islamic Arts. I learned Calligraphy, Islamic Illumination and Geometry. While I did my dissertation on the topic “Impact of Arabic Calligraphy and Digital Typography in Contemporary Graphic Design” I spoke to Late Ustaad Gohar Qalam which helped me understand a new depth. My thesis was surrounded by the same concepts where I created a pop-up book for children on Calligraphy.

Why do you feel a connection to Islamic art specifically?

To break it down into one memory, I would say it was all about the Qalams and the Scripts.

When we started learning about calligraphy, it was something new for me, I had seen it around, but I never really went in too deep and when I did, I believe that was the highlight of my life when I found out how everything worked, how everything was readied and processed.

I absolutely loved how every script has its own way of shaving and readying the qalam’s tip for the perfect stroke, how qalams are the most fundamental tool for writing, before everything, there was the Qalam

Did you undergo any formal training?

I was first introduced to Islamic Arts in my undergraduate program, where I learned the basics of everything from calligraphy, Islamic illumination/tehzip and geometry. But as I graduated and started working in an ad agency, I always wanted to go back and learn more about Islamic Arts.

Finally taking that step, I studied calligraphy formally from Ustaad Shahryan Shah in Turkey and Islamic Illumination from Ustaaz Fatima Ulusoy in Turkey. And I have been working on my Ijaza on multiple scripts as we speak.

The Prince's Foundation School of Traditional Arts has also been a source of my education for Islamic Arts.

Is your work influenced by your cultural heritage?

Islamic Arts and all its forms are vastly visible in almost all the regions of the world, and some of the most prominent ones are found in Pakistan. Foremost, the Badshahi and Wazir Khan Mosques in Lahore, absolute marvelous pieces of art and architecture. Both have some of the most beautiful Naqashi/Tezhip work done across the ceilings, pillars walls and calligraphy.

Thatta is one of the key places in Pakistan that you can see very prominent Islamic Arts with some of the most vibrant colors and complexity of works.

So, in short, I would say yes, my cultural heritage has been a very good influence as it was the nearest source of truth, I had to me while in university.

Your works are inspired by Islamic geometry, illumination and Arabic calligraphy. How did you train to become an artist specializing in these traditional a