Amazed by its beauty and simplicity, I spent some time trying to figure out the words of the Arabic calligraphy the invitation card had.
My wearing attempts were only ended by the help of one of the event’s organisers who provided the answer to me; “Yaa Wadood.” What was more amazing is the fact that the Davud Bektaş (pronounced as Daawood Baktaash), the calligrapher who produced this great work, does not speak Arabic; his wife Deniz Oktem was translating his answers to me.
I met them during Bektaş’s exhibition in Kuwait which was organised by the Ministry of Endowments and Islamic Affairs in cooperation with the Kuwait Arts Association under the title “Taraaneem Alhuroof” or “The Chants of the Letters.”
Religious Family and Traditional Learning
The first question that came to my mind was how could he excel in Arabic calligraphy while Turkish language is written in Latin letters since the establishment of the republic by Kamal Atatürk. Bektaş answers that his family is a religious one, so he learnt how to read the ’Qura~n since he was a small child. He has always been interested in writing and seeing paintings, but he started to consider Arabic calligraphy when he joined high school which was a religious one.
Calligraphy is taught in a traditional way, there is a mentor-student relationship through which the art is learnt. Bektaş went to Istanbul to study and received a law degree from Istanbul University. During that time he met his teacher Hasan Celebi with whom he stated his calligraphy lessons. “At some periods in history, calligraphy in Turkey was only done by several people and some thought it was going to be lost, but during the last 20 years it has improved, and Istanbul is the centre of this art.” Bektaş recounts.
“Just like any other art, you cannot pinpoint from where you start … when you get the inspiration you do it.” Bektaş thinks. Starting the task could be either stalagmitic or stalactitic; sometimes there is a statement that attracts his attention and he starts to find a way to put in on. Sometimes he sees a good combination of letters and looks for a statement that brings the beauty if these letters together. Someone might also require him to write a certain thing and he has to charge his energy to find a way to put the statement in a creative way. Bektaş assures that calligraphers consult each other, they also have joint exhibitions but they do not work on one piece together.
The Thuluth Script
Amongst the various scripts Arabic calligraphy has, Bektaş is deeply interested in the thuluth script. “The most attractive thing to me in the thuluth was the composition of letters and words.” During high school he bought a handbook on calligraphy called “Kalem Güzeli” by Mahmud Yazir which kindled his interest.
Illuminations and Computers
Bektaş concentrates on the calligraphy, while a team of illuminators takes care of doing the illumination that appear in some of his works. “Illumination is still alive in Turkey and there are many artists.” Bektaş adds.
“Computer cannot be a threat to the art of calligraphy …the memory of the computer is good, but it cannot think.” Bektaş thinks. His wife Deniz Oktem adds that “with the pen you have a nice flow and see how the pen moves with the ink … with the computer every thing will be the same. All calligraphers go against the computers.” she adds and smiles.
Arabs before Islaam had a primitive writing system because the dominant culture was an oral one. With the pressing need to write the Holy ‘Qura-an and to devise a better writing system that facilitates reading the ‘Qura-an to the new Muslims who recently learnt Arabic, the Arabic writing system received new additions such as the dots some letters have and the diacritics marks were also devised.
The cultural exchange with the new areas Islaam came to produced several scripts such as the koofy (Kufic), the naskh, the thuluth, the deewaany, and many others. Each script has its own characteristics and uses. The thuluth script is known of its flexibility and graceful curves. This script has one third of the letter leaning downward the other letter, it was thus called the thuluth which means one third in Arabic. Due to its nature, the thuluth is not commonly used for ordinary writing, but rather for producing artworks.
About Davud Bektaş
Davud Bektaş was born in the village of Akoluk near Adana in 1963. He attended the elementary school in the village and continued his education at the Imam-Hatip high school of Adana. In 1981, he was accepted to the law school of Istanbul University and in 1992 he graduated and received his law degree.
During high school, he got interested in the art of Islaamic calligraphy. He thus decided to take classes. When he arrived in Istanbul towards the end of 1981 to attend law school, he started Islaamic calligraphy lessons with the calligrapher Yusuf Ergun Erzincani. He studied the thuluth with this master for a short period of time. Introduced to the calligrapher Hasan Celebi in 1982, he started to get lessons from him. He learned the scripts of thuluth, naskh and ri’q’ah from Celebi. In 1994, he received his diploma (ijaazah) from his teacher. Currently Bektaş is taking specific classes from Professor Ali Alparslan on the ‘taliq and the deewaany scripts. Moreover he is teaching Islaamic calligraphy classes in Istanbul.
In the International Islaamic calligraphy competitions organised by I.R.C.I.C.A., Bektaş received the following awards;
- In 1986, the first prize in the jaly thuluth script and honourable mention award in the style of direct imitation;
- In 1989, the first prize in the jaly thuluth script;
- In 1993, the first prize in the thuluth script;
- In 1997 he received the first prize in the Islaamic Festival organised in Tehran.
1. In 1988, he received the first prize in the Islaamic calligraphy competition organised as part of the Gulhane Festival in Istanbul.
2. In 1991 and 1992, he participated in two competitions organised in Urfa and received the first prizes at both organisations.
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