What if you could take the quick-shooting, fast-sharing spirit of Instagram and do something useful with it? Nuqta, a new app available for the iPhone, does exactly that – tapping in to the urge to snap-and-upload and getting users to create a living, hand-held museum of the Arabic script.
While an early version of the app had its soft launch in Dubai in March during Design Days, the Nuqta team is rolling out a full version of the software from Saturday during London’s Shubbak festival of Arab culture, with the view to incorporating tablets and Android phones in the near future.
What is Nuqta?
Taking its name from the first dot or mark on a page from which all letters begin, Nuqta is a free app that encourages users to find, photograph and share exemplary instances of Arabic script with their smartphone. It’s been developed by Soraya Syed, a classically trained calligrapher, and the graphic designer Mukhtar Sanders. Together they co-founded the London design agency Inspiral Design in 2000, specialising in multilingual design with a leaning towards typography of the Muslim world and they hope this new app can become a resource for type-lovers such as themselves. “We’d like Nuqta to be the Wikipedia of Arabic calligraphy and typography,” says Syed.
How does it work?
Simple. Find a good example of Arabic script – be it a turquoise Ottoman tile, a cleverly calligraphed shopfront or a rather fetching font on a menu – take a quick shot with Nuqta’s in-app camera and let it loose. All photographs are cropped and uploaded straight into Nuqta’s archive, plotted on an interactive map of the world and viewable on www.nuqta.com. This map is already being speckled with a healthy batch of images, and from the official launch the archive will be searchable by style, medium and region. The aim is to foster a self-regulating community in which users comment on uploads, flag up any shaky images and, Syed hopes, offer their expertise on some of the finer rudiments of type. “Nuqta offers a platform for typographers and designers working in the field to come together and interact – too often we work in isolation.”
What can I see?
A snap of a good street sign or a fine work of Arabic graffiti are as encouraged as a beautifully crafted sentence from a medieval manuscript. Herein lies the potential value of this archive because, if it’s used correctly, the user-built collection could offer a timeline showing masters from the past right through to slogans scrawled in the streets around Tahrir Square. “The artwork on the streets is important to Nuqta as it demonstrates how social change may potentially be acting on Arabic calligraphy and typography,” says Syed, adding that Nuqta has been given the thumbs-up from the French-Tunisian street artist and “calligraffist” eL Seed, with a few of his works already pinned on the map.
Who is it aimed at?
Designers and calligraphers, sure, but Syed also sees a much broader appeal. She says the archive could be just as useful for a tourist heading to Istanbul. It has value for those looking to explore some of the more tucked-away libraries or buildings that have beautiful examples of Arabic writing. Just a quick skim across Nuqta’s map reveals a remarkably broad sweep, from a handcrafted door in Zanzibar to the word “Alnasr” (victory) cut into the salt marshes in Qatar’s hinterland. There’s a wall frieze from the Alhambra in Andalusia and a finely wrought calligraphic birth certificate from a user just outside Delaware.
Syed was awarded her Islamic calligraphy licence from one of Istanbul’s coveted colleges. She says that masters in the field are noticing a recent surge of new talent coming to the art form. “It’s definitely up-and-coming. Because of the internet, calligraphers can get immediate reactions to their work, which helps.”
How do I get involved?
Nuqta can be downloaded for free from the Apple App Store. A more complete version of the website including access to the searchable archive, the options to craft a profile and comment on uploads, will be available after Saturday’s launch, coinciding with an event at the art foundation Edge of Arabia’s Testbed space in London, from 5pm to 7pm. For more information, see www.nuqta.com.