FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS
Where can I learn Islamic calligraphy?
There are few places left in the Muslim world where Islamic calligraphy can be learnt following the traditional master – apprenticeship method. As the last great empire was the Ottoman one, the chain of learning calligraphy in Istanbul , Turkey has never been broken and remains the center of studying the art today. All over the city there are classes being held, some take place at universities, others at waqfs or madrasahs. However, there are schools in Alexandria and Cairo , Egypt as well as university courses in Damascus , Syria and Amman , Jordan . In Morocco it is possible to study the Maghribi script. There were many great calligraphers in Iraq but since the war I am not sure what the situation regarding studying the art is there.
In Istanbul it is possible to study the art at Caferaga Medresesi which is a lovely restored madrasah built by the famous architect Sinan next to the Aya Sofya in Sultanahmet. As well as calligraphy, there are other art workshops going on. The courtyard is a café/ restaurant and is open to tourists:
Caferaga Medresesi(Aya Sofya Müzesi yani)Caferiye Sok. Sogukkuyu Çikmazi No:1 Sultanahmet Istanbul
Phone: (212) 513 36 01-02/ 528 00 89
e-mail: caferagamedrese at superonline.com
For more information about other places in Istanbul to study calligraphy, a good point of contact and resource centre is IRCICA:
How many years does it take to become a calligrapher?
On average, it takes 5 years intensive training and that is with constant studying. For most people, it takes longer as they live abroad and need to study via correspondence or have other jobs as well as families to support. At the end of the training, the calligraphy master awards the student the ijazah or icazetname, a certificate enabling the student to sign his/her own works and to take on students of his/her own. However, the certificate really marks the beginning of a calligrapher’s career and it takes many more years if not a lifetime to master the art.
For more information and a personal insight in training to become a calligrapher, please visit: http://www.zakariya.net/resources/becoming.html
Is it easy to live in Istanbul and is it necessary to learn Turkish?
Istanbul is a great city to live in and is affordable in comparison to most European countries. Having said that it is not cheap especially in comparison to Syria or Egypt. If you plan to come and study for a few years, you will need to come well funded. Alternatively, a good way to earn money while studying here is to teach English especially if you are qualified. Some of the calligraphy masters speak Arabic, hardly any speak English. A lot of the technical vocabulary surrounding the art and the advice the master gives you will be in Turkish so yes it is advisable to learn the language.
Is it possible to study Islamic calligraphy in Europe?
It is possible to find, now and again, short courses in the UK. It is best to check out the websites and calendars of places such as the British Museum, Victoria & Albert Museum and The Prince’s School of Traditional Arts in London.
© 2010-2011 Soraya Syed
(email: soraya at artofthepen.com)