Learning Calligraphy in Turkey
I get a lot of emails and requests for advice on learning the fine art of calligraphy, often about going abroad or where one would find teachers. Some are dedicated to long term learning and others who wish to 'try it out' or improve their handwriting.
My learning has been confined to Egypt and my own personal experience, therefore I am interviewing other calligraphers who have pursued their dreams of learning abroad. So look out for some posts in the coming year on learning abroad.
Turkey is famous for its Arabic calligraphy and some of worlds greatest masters of penmanship have come from there. I got in touch with British calligrapher, Soraya Syed Sanders, as she has studied for several years in Istanbul and gives us some quick answers to common questions you may have.
What is studying calligraphy abroad compared to home like?
There is no comparison really. As there were no teachers here (UK), i had no choice but to go and study abroad. Somewhere like Istanbul is buzzing with calligraphy!
How did you find out about who to study with and where?
Can't remember how i found out- but i knew who my teacher was as soon as i met him- and he was from Istanbul.
How did you prepare for it, both for living in Turkey and learning calligraphy?
I didn't prepare really- i just said Bismillah and totally trusted that if this was what i was supposed to be doing that Allah would provide and make things easy- and He did alhamdulillah!
How long should one stay abroad to study?
The longer the better- 3 -5 years if possible.
What is unique about the Turkish calligraphers and system of learning?
What you receive form a Turkish master who has received the ijazah- is not only his or her wisdom but the many centuries that preceded as the Ottoman-Turkish silsila of calligraphy is unbroken.
Is the art of calligraphy being revived or maintained in the country?
Yes- without doubt there are so many calligraphers now and it can be argued that the art has surpassed all levels- what will happen next what direction will the art take as it becomes more competitive are questions i ask myself?
Any recommended places or individuals to study at/with?
It is difficult to list the places as calligraphers tend to change venues where they teach. But the next generation of great calligraphers are people like Davut Bektash, Mehmet Ozcay, my own teacher Efdaluddin Kilic and there are others. See my FAQ page for more info.
What is it like for women to practice calligraphy in Turkey?
They are encouraged to and they exhibit widely and take part on all the competitions but if they are married and have children it is extremely difficult but not impossible.
Is Arabic essential to doing calligraphy, if so, where could one learn?
Strangely enough- it isn't essential but highly recommended. Probably a beginners course on Arabic would suffice to start with- anywhere from London to Amman!
[ed: One can study Arabic locally before leaving for abroad]
Soraya Syed Sanders was born and raised in London. Of mixed Pakistani-French origin, Soraya returned to the UK after completing her apprenticeship and receiving the icazetname (Islamic Calligraphy Diploma) in Istanbul. She attended the Arts Foundation at Central St. Martin’s, London. She read Arabic and History of Art & Archaeology at The School of Oriental and African Studies, and in 2001 graduated from the Masters programme in Visual Islamic and Traditional Arts at The Prince’s School of Traditional Arts, London. Her written and visual work has been published and exhibited in the UK and abroad. She now resides in west London with her husband and baby daughter.
To see some of Soraya's work, please visit: www.artofthepen.com
Written by: Ruh al-'Alam, Visual Dhikr
If you have your own story about studying calligraphy abroad or have advice, write to me: info at visual dhikr dot com - or simply leave comments below.