Egyptian artist Khadiga El-Ghawas is the first light calligrapher in Egypt

Khadiga El-Ghawas describes her work as a form of meditation, based on the slow, systematic movement of tai chi. The young Egyptian light calligrapher draws words in the air with light sticks, often working to music. Taken on a long, slow exposure, photographs of her movements capture the streets and vistas of Alexandria, lit up by swirls of light – a unique blend between street art, photography and performance.

Why did you choose calligraphy as your art form?
I started learning calligraphy when I was six years old. My teacher saw that my hand is good, so he taught me until I reached high school, and then I entered lots of competitions and took the fifth place in my country. For me, calligraphy is more than just art. It’s a physical act that relaxes me. I studied meditation long ago and calligraphy has a similar effect. It’s very ancient, like yoga and tai chi. It’s really very beautiful.

When did you first start working with light as your medium?
Arabic light calligraphy is a combination of three things that I love: calligraphy, photography and meditation. I started in 2013 and then I got into it very intensely and I met people from all around the world and we worked together. It’s really a soulful act… I write the word that I’m going to write in the air on paper first, and then with the camera on a tripod I step back five or six feet and with my whole body I write the word in reverse, so that it will appear the right way around.

How do you choose your locations?
Nowadays, since the revolution, the street isn’t really a very peaceful place to do work. I love to work outdoors, but I need to choose my time carefully. Most of these photographs were simple to do outdoors, but there are sometimes problems, so for some of them I had to take the photo and then do the calligraphy separately and combine them together.

A version of this article appeared in print in Selections, The Urban Art Issue #37, pages 82-83.