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The Written Word: Timeless Arabic & Hebrew Calligraphy

Award winning international artists come together in a new exhibition to showcase the beauty of calligraphy

  • 12th June 2022 - 18th December 2022
  • 12:00 pm - 5:00 pm

The exquisite work of three award-winning calligraphy artists, Joumana Medlej, Michel D’Anastasio and Maaida Noor, has been curated in a new exhibition opening at The Woolf Institute in Cambridge on 12 June.

Featuring Arabic and Hebrew text in a range of styles, these original masterpieces are modern works inspired by the classical calligraphic tradition and will showcase the fusion of old traditional methods with modern techniques. Calligraphy as a form of ornamental handwriting is found in cultures and languages throughout the world, with origins dating back to ancient times in East Asian, Roman, Persian, Islamic, Chinese and Western cultures.

Joumana Medlej is a British-Lebanese artist best known for her expertise in early Arabic calligraphy, the ”Kufi” scripts. After an early career in graphic design and illustration, she was invited to assist a master calligrapher in Beirut.  Through years of close collaboration, she learned the essence of Kufic, the origin of all Arabic calligraphy. She developed her own visual language out of this lesser-known style and her own contemporary use of Kufi. Joumana also teaches Kufic calligraphy at the Arab British Centre in London, writes about early Islamic art technology and her work is found in international private and public collections.

French artist Michel D’Anastasio is based in Paris and is one of only two leading specialists in modern Hebrew calligraphy in Europe. After discovering in 2004 that part of his family is of Jewish origin, Michel’s visit to Israel introduced him to the beauty of Hebrew letters. Michel also applies contemporary techniques, taking photographs of his work in different lights and also teaches the art of calligraphy. D’Anastasio is known worldwide for his works with Hebrew letters, with exhibitions of his art in France, Japan, Israel, India, Russia and Canada.

Influenced by her British and Pakistani roots, award-winning artist Maaida Noor takes inspiration from the incredibly rich heritage of Islamic arts and the cultural values of the Muslim world. Noor combines art forms from the ‘Maghreb’ (Northwest Africa) region, Medieval Fatimids to the Safavid Persians and the Mughal Indians to create work which is rooted in the world of geometry and traditional Islamic illumination. Her work has featured in exhibitions in London and Dubai, and she has collaborated with commercial clients including Christian Dior, The Body Shop, Selfridges, Estée Lauder and Mirzam Chocolate.

The three artists will attend the opening day on Sunday 12 June to share their insights working as calligraphy artists. Guests will be able to meet the artists and browse the collection of original art with the opportunity to purchase these original pieces. Curated by Woolf’s PhD scholars, Mohammed I. Ahmed and Dunya Habash, the complete collection of over thirty original artworks will be reproduced and featured in an exhibition at the Woolf Institute until the end of 2022.

The Woolf Institute has an international reputation for its interfaith work and is dedicated to educating the public about the heritage of the Abrahamic faiths – Christianity, Judaism and Islam. With interfaith focus at its heart, the exhibition explores some of the creative, artistic productions developed across Abrahamic communities over time,

Dr Esther-Miriam Wagner, Executive Director of the Woolf Institute, says, “A part of the mission of the Woolf Institute is to educate national audiences on the interlaced nature of the three Abrahamic traditions. Bringing together Arabic calligraphy of Islamic and Christian texts, and Hebrew calligraphy of the Torah, the exhibition illustrates the dynamism that exists in the calligraphic tradition. Although The Written Word focusses on the liturgical languages of Judaism and Islam, it highlights that Arabic was an important mode of communication for Christian Middle Eastern communities too. We are delighted to be hosting these stunning works of art, which we hope will offer a fascinating glimpse of the calligraphic traditions interpreted for the modern day.”

The work and training of these contemporary artists is informed by their diverse heritage, and together the calligraphy represents the three Abrahamic traditions.

For more information and to book for the opening day event, visit:



Sunday 12 June 

14:00 – 17:00

Reception in Shasha Suite

Woolf Institute

Madingley Road

Cambridge CB3 0UB


The three artists will attend the opening day on Sunday 12 June to share their insights working as calligraphy artists. Guests will be able to meet the artists and browse the collection of original art and there will be an opportunity to purchase these original pieces.



Did you know?

One of the most famous figures in English history, Oliver Cromwell, was laid to rest at Westminster Abbey, but his decapitated head is buried in the grounds of Sidney Sussex College in Cambridge. Grisly but true!