In commemoration of the annual Hangeul Day, held every October 9, Korea Culture Center, Abuja, hosted a calligraphy event, attended by its language students and other Nigerians as parts of effort in promoting Korean culture.
The second of its kind, the event saw participants’ names translated to hangeul by the instructor and cultural consultant, Meeyoun Ji, before they proceeded to write out the translations on the thin Hanji paper, sourced from Tak Na Mun tree, that lasts a thousand years.
Speaking of the experience, newcomer to the space Azaki Dorcas, described the art form as fascinating and easy once translations are done; while Hangeul students, Seye Odukoya and Odeh Mercy, found the practice of Korean calligraphy with the original tools, ‘interesting’ and indicative of its importance to the history and culture of Koreans.
Hangeul Student, Chimezie Ajumobi, however, has always admired and practiced the art of calligraphy, working with available if not original ink, hanji paper, brush and tools of Korean calligraphy. His aim is to deploy the art to interior designs.
“Calligraphy to me, has always been an art form. I admire the brushstrokes. It is not just about picking a brush to write. You have to know the type of brush to use, the right size of brush, paper and so on. It may sound stupid, but I intend to fill-up my walls with calligraphic art,” smiled Ajumobi.
While aware of the artistic and emotional expressive qualities of calligraphy, the students seem to overlook the possibilities of calligraphy as a means to engender cultural understanding between Korea and Nigeria via translational literature and writing.
Responses to their purposes for studying Korean Language re-echo the need to arm themselves with the communicative tool to further their education in Korea. With the annual Korean Government Scholarship Programme (KGSP), African students are given undergraduate and graduate opportunities to study in Korea. As of the year 2018, only one out of 81 applicants qualified for the KGSP.
Ji said with the increasing interest of Nigerians in Asian countries as Korea, Korea universities offer institutional scholarships on Hangeul, and Calligraphy Nigerians can access.
Calligraphy was identified in Korea since the second and third century AD, during the Silla Period, which brought Chinese Buddhism to Korea. Then, Korean Calligraphy was written in Hanja, Chinese characters. By the eighth century, Koreans as poet Choe Chiwon, and in particular, Kim Saeng was recognised as the earliest calligraphy master.
Until the 14th Century, the angular styles of the early Chinese Tang Masters, Yu Shinan, Ouyang Xin and Yan Zhenqing were the norm. But the century introduced the rounded style of Zhao Mengfu, and in Korea, calligraphic writing stuck to the Chinese style until the 19th Century when Kim Jung-hee revolutionized Korean Calligraphy with his signature Chusa style, inspired by the Chinese Lishu script. Korean Calligraphy used Hanja until the Japanese occupation of the country of 1910 – 1945 when nationalist sentiment led to the popularization of Hangeul calligraphy. Today, Korean calligraphy is developing consistently its own style, such as the non-square fonts.