‘Qalam’ means 'reed pen', the tool used to create traditional calligraphy in Arabic script. From the first years of Islam to the present day, this form of calligraphy has developed into a vast range of different styles, created using a variety of tools on a great diversity of media.

Over time Arabic script has evolved to write many languages including Persian, Urdu, Pashto and Kurdish. This means that today the Arabic alphabet is the second most widely used writing system in the world.

The objects displayed in this exhibition range from a 7th century Qur’an to contemporary art of the 21st century. Together they provide an insight into Arabic calligraphy, one of the world’s most versatile, meaningful and popular forms of art.

Taught by the pen

This film was specially commissioned to accompany the exhibition 'Qalam: the art of beautiful writing'.

Birmingham-based visual artist Mohammed Ali responds to the exhibition creating a sound and visual exploration around the objects displayed. The soundscape crafted for the film incorporates vocal elements from Jazz artist Cleveland Watkiss, poet Tshaka Campbell as well as the Muslim call to prayer.

Mohammed's exploration takes us on a journey of the pen where we discover how the power of words, whether scribed or spoken, can transform our society.