Photo by Noor Azreen Awang
SERDANG, April 18 - Starting with Rumi and Jawi calligraphy before graduating to Tamil visual art of decorative handwriting, a Universiti Putra Malaysia (UPM) lecturer has succeeded to carve a niche in Tamil calligraphy when his Tamil lettering was molded and immortalized on commemorative stamps and the First Day Cover of Pos Malaysia.
The Tamil calligraphy artistically handwritten by Velu Perumal, a lecturer of the Industrial Design Department, Faculty of Design and Architecture (FRSB), UPM, was firstly carved on stamps and First Day Cover of Pos Malaysia on June 28, 2016, and the second time on March 28, 2017.
The calligraphic work he came up with in 2016 and themed ‘Nilai Murni’ (Values) was designed on70 sen stamps. In the stamp series of the “Malaysian Calligraphy”, the Jawi calligraphy that featured a common theme was for 90 sen stamps while the Chinese calligraphy was for 80 sen stamps and they were produced by two different calligraphers. The RM5 stamp combined all three calligraphic works.
Last March, Velu’s Tamil calligraphy, with the theme “Festive Greeting” was immortalized on 80 sen stamps while the Jawi and Chinese calligraphy produced by two other calligraphers, were also embossed on 80 sen stamps. The RM5 stamps combined all three calligraphic works.
"My interest in calligraphy started since I was in primary school. It was bolstered by my drawing teacher at Sekolah Kebangsaan Sungai Manggis, Banting, Cikgu (Teacher) Zamrud Said.
"He was my source of inspiration who elicited my interests in painting and calligraphy in both Rumi and Jawi.
“CikguZamrud was the one instrumental in helping me to build my self-confidence in doing decorative handwriting and he gave me the opportunity to take part in drawing competitions at district and state levels,” Velu said in an interview.
He said he will never forget what Cikgu Zamrud has done for him.
"At the launching of a stamp calligraphy on June 26, 2016, I received this news that he had passed away. After the event ended on that Friday afternoon, I brought those stamps featuring my calligraphic works when I went for his funeral to pay my last respect in Pandamaran, Klang,” he said.
Recalling the moments before his calligraphy was featured for the first time on commemorative stamps, Velu, 48, said he was surprised to receive a phone call early last year from a company appointed by Pos Malaysia where he was told to send his personal biodata and samples of calligraphy Tamil that he had produced.
Subsequently, the company requested that he produced a Tamil calligraphy that highlighted the meaning of ‘Nilai Murni’ or in Tamil, 'Nanneri Anbu.' He used the image of a palm frond commonly used in the multicultural Malaysia as the concept for his calligraphy lettering.
"The concept portrayed an effort to celebrate diversity of cultural expressions through Tamil calligraphy, the first in the history of Malaysia.
"It took me over a month to produce that calligraphy," he said. A total of 100,000 stamps worth 70 sen each and 30,000 stamps worth RM5 each were issued by Pos Malaysia.
Again, early this year, he received another phone call for him to produce a Tamil calligraphy with festive greeting as the theme to be featured in the commemorative stamps.
“I was so grateful that I was given the trust and confidence to produce that Tamil calligraphy. Initially, I was in disbelief as there were many Indian painters who were also good in calligraphy but at the same time, I felt great that I was given the mandate to do it to the best of my ability.”
Along with the words 'Deepavali Iniye Vaalthukal' or Happy Deepavali, he produced a calligraphy based on festive tradition of floor painting Kolum which became the basic decor for Deepavali. It took him two weeks before he came up with the Kolum idea and created it.
A total of 80,000 stamps worth 80 sen each and 30,000 stamps of RM5 each were issued by Pos Malaysia.
During launching of the commemorative stamps, ardent stamp collectors lined up to get his signature, which according to him, was a manifestation of acceptance of his work by members of the public.
Velu said efforts to produce and develop Jawi, Chinese and Tamil calligraphy must go on and be beefed up to prevent manuscripts writing that represented the various cultures of people in the country from going into oblivion.
"These efforts by Pos Malaysia have given a new lease of life to calligraphy as calligraphy handwriting has been given a new platform during this modern era,” he said while expressing his gratitude to FRSB staff and students, in particular Assoc. Prof. Lar. Dr. Osman Mohd Tahir and Assoc. Prof. Dr. Nazlina Shaari who have given him lots of encouragement and support in facing this new branch of the field of art.
He said he is making an attempt to come up with the rules and methods of calligraphy Tamil handwriting involving all 247 Tamil alphabets to be used worldwide in view of Tamil calligraphy writing which at the moment is still unknown and not popular. – UPM
Updated:: 30/04/2017 [syifarida]
Sekolah Pengajian Siswazah
Universiti Putra Malaysia
43400 UPM Serdang
Selangor Darul Ehsan, Malaysia