Maryam Aminu: ‘How Lockdown Period Made Me An Arabic Calligrapher’

Maryam Aminu was passionate about drawing while growing up, but the lockdown occasioned by COVID-19 led the final year student of Pharmacy at the Kaduna State University into Arabic calligraphy.

In this interview with DailyTrust, she talks about how her new found passion turned into a source of income, and more.


When did you start writing Arabic calligraphy?

I started sometime in April during the lockdown.

Since primary school I used to draw inanimate objects like pots and fruits.

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I had great passion for drawing then. Later, I began drawing cartoon characters, specifically Disney princesses.

As I grew older, I continued, but when I gained admission into Kaduna State University (KASU) to study Pharmacy, I stopped to concentrate on my studies.

However, I picked it up again sometime in 2019.

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What led you to Arabic calligraphy?

I am always exposed to works of other artists on Instagram and, with the lockdown, I was at home throughout.

So, I thought of doing something new with my free time.

Consequently, I understood that frames of Arabic calligraphy are loved so much that they are hung in rooms.

Also, my research showed that less people are into the profession due to the refined and delicate way it takes to produce it.

What reaction has your work generated so far?

The reactions have been positive, because those that sought my service loved the work that I did for them.

Similarly, those who saw them on social media liked them and this in turn generated customers for me as they were shared and retweeted.

Maryam Aminu: ‘How Lockdown Period Made Me An Arabic Calligrapher’
Maryam Aminu: ‘How Lockdown Period Made Me An Arabic Calligrapher’

How profitable has it been?

Yes, I have made quite a lot of money from it.

Since April I have made over 70 frames.

The size determines the price, which starts from N7,000 to N50,000.

In a week, I work on three to four frames, so I can say I earn something close to N70,000 in a week.

Where do you see yourself in the future?

I see myself as a pharmacist, but I would like to take the art I do now to the next level because I do not want to abandon it again.

Since I engaged in it, I have been exposed to opportunities that could be used to propel myself and give to the society.

Of course, it will not be easy to be a pharmacist and an artist, but hopefully I will surmount all challenges that will come at me.

How have you been able to strengthen and expand your knowledge on calligraphy in order to improve yourself?

I watch tutorials on YouTube and I search for other people’s works on the internet.

What equipment do you use?

Calligraphy has tools and equipment specifically designed to make it easier for the artist.

For me, I use a chisel-head marker, though it is not giving me what I want, but that is what is more accessible to me, and a cardboard paper.

I do the artwork at home on ordinary paper using a chisel-head marker then I take it to those who frame.

I then package it before I send it to the customer.

Maryam Aminu: ‘How Lockdown Period Made Me An Arabic Calligrapher’
Maryam Aminu: ‘How Lockdown Period Made Me An Arabic Calligrapher’

Do you face any challenge, especially as a result of your gender?

No, I haven’t encountered any challenge due to my gender.

But I have a bad eyesight because I am myopic.

So, calligraphy tends to worsen the situation.

Also, generally art is a talent but some could be learnt.

For me, calligraphy comes as a talent because I never sat under someone to learn.

However, I do feel bad when people criticize my hard work, particularly when it is not based on professionalism.

With the bad energy I still focus on what I do because I am benefiting from it financially and spiritually.

How long does it take you to finish a piece?

A single short chapter, like Surah-tul Falaq and Nas can take me about four hours each to inscribe, but for verses like Ayatul Khursiyu or Amana Rasulu, I spend up to eight hours or more to complete.

Which of your artwork is your favourite?

There is this Surah Al Fatiha that I once did.

I like it most because I used red and black ink to make the design and the finished piece was breath-taking.

Maryam Aminu, a final year student of Pharmacy at the Kaduna State University into Arabic calligraphy
Maryam Aminu: ‘How Lockdown Period Made Me An Arabic Calligrapher’

What style do you use that is different from others?

My writing style is unique because I don’t use the conventional.

When you compare mine with the works of others the difference is clear.

Maybe it is because I was not taught formally and do it in my own way.

What are you working on at the moment?

I have a project to deliver and it is Surah Al Naas and Ikhkas on the same frame.

It is the first time I’m going to do both in the same frame.

Normally I do them differently.

Thus, the work will be on a larger frame for the writings to be conspicuous and maintain its quality.

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