Syed Azeem Haider Jafri is the master of calligraphy or khattati, the art of fancy handwriting. His expertise is also the form of Tughra calligraphy where images are created using calligraphy. He is an expert of various styles of calligraphy and is a popular face in exhibitions for his work in Arabic, Urdu, Hindi & English languages. The striking beauty of jewel like alphabets and designs inscribed on a sheet of paper grabs the immediate attention of the eyes. He has scripted wonders on paper, cloths, stones, etc. He leads a non-descript life in the bylanes of old Lucknow. This talented penman knows that calligraphy demise is imminent, but that has not diminished his passion for the craft. He carries his treasure trove in a bag that dangles on his bicycle and unzips it to reveal a rare collection of calligraphic and Tughra designs. The impressions of Jafri’s crafty hands are visible on various imambaras and mosques in the city. It may take a week to three months to complete a single specimen of calligraphy or Tughra. He is disciple of the calligrapher Asif Mirza. Jafri has gifted Tughra to many prominent people like former Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf, film stars Farooque Shaikh and Raza Murad among others.
Calligraphy was originated around 13th century in India. It was given patronage by the rulers of Delhi Sultanate, Mughal dynasty & Regional dynasties. Delhi, Lahore and Lucknow were the prominent centres of calligraphy. It reached the zenith in Awadh under the Nawabs, whereas evidences of calligraphy are found at tomb of Sheikh Ibrahim, Nadan Mahel which happens also to be the oldest surviving monument of Lucknow. Chota Imambara is one of the best example of calligraphy on monument. Abdul Halim Sharar has given details about the same in his legendary book ‘Guzishta Lucknow’. Contribution of Munshi Nawal Kishore Press is also outstanding in promoting this art. Calligraphy has been admired for centuries for its beauty, skill and creativity of the artist. But now, this exquisite style is on the verge of extinction due to onslaught of modern inventions like computers and printers. In these circumstances if a person adopts calligraphy as a profession, it deserves kudos since it shows his sincerity to keep alive an art in this era of computer. Syed Azeem Haider Jafri, is one such a man and calligraphy is his passion and he has acquired a distinction in this art.
Founder Lucknow Society interacted with the master and initiated a unique step by saving the art of calligraphy in 21st century. This is in continuation to the ‘Lucknow Literary Festival’ which was organized by Lucknow Society. Let’s Save Calligraphy Workshop was started and students from various fields attended the free course to learn the art. Azeem Haider Jafri, the well known and the best calligrapher of Tughra Calligraphy was the tutor for calligraphy in various languages. Various monuments of Lucknow are enriched with Calligraphy and the Calligraphy Heritage Walk was also organized to explore the importance of calligraphy in monuments. We Salute the artist for being a legend and promoting the art in Lucknow !