Istanbul, Part Three: Sakıp Sabancı

I apologize for my long absence from this blog. Time to get back to it!

While I was in Istanbul this past March, I had the great fortune to be able to visit the Sakıp Sabancı Müzesi (Museum) in Emirgan, on the European side of the Bosphorus. If you’re ever in Istanbul and interested in the history of calligraphy, this is the place to go.

Though there aren’t an extraordinary number of pieces at the Sakıp Sabancı museum, each one is particularly well chosen, giving the visitor a cohesive overview of calligraphy during the Ottoman empire. The Collection is displayed in the upper storey of the Atlı Köşk mansion, and is part of the permanent collection. Visit the museum’s website for more details about the collection and how to get there. You can also view pieces from their collection on this website’s gallery page; search for “Sakıp Sabancı” to find items from the collection.


You can also view pieces from their collection on this website’s gallery page; search for “Sakıp Sabancı” to find items from the collection.

Istanbul, Part Two: IRCICA

During my trip to Istanbul in March, I had the pleasure of visiting IRCICA, the Research Center For Islamic History, Art and Culture. Among the many activities that IRCICA sponsors is a prestigious calligraphy competition held every other year.

IRCICA is located in the Beşiktaş neighborhood, which is easy to get to by ferry from Eminönü or Uskidar. From the ferry port, you walk up Barbaros Boulevard until you see a large park on your right; you can veer to the right through the park (but still going up the hill) until you hit Yıldız Caddesi. Turn right, and the Yıldız Sarayı (where IRCICA is located) will be at the top of the hill. Bring your passport or some sort of ID, because it is required to sign in.

The staff at IRCICA is very friendly, although very little English is spoken. They served us tea and brought out their assortment of calligraphy books upon request.

IRCICA sells a wide variety of calligraphy books, most of which cannot be found anywhere else. These include catalogues of winners plates from their calligraphy competitions, the meshk curriculum books for Thuluth & Naskh and Divani & Riq’a, and classics like The Art of Calligraphy in Islamic Heritage, 1990-1996, which is full of amazing work and sells for over $100 US.

One of the things Aishah and I discovered on our visit is that IRCICA has a new research library. The facility is beautiful and would serve as a wonderful base for visiting scholars. The calligraphy section is fantastic.

The library includes a full archive of all the original calligraphy competition entries, which are such fun to look through. I definitely recommend visiting IRCICA if you’re interested in calligraphy and happen to be in Istanbul.

Symposium\Exhibition\Workshop on Female Calligraphers

This looks like it will be a great event, sponsored by IRCICA:

5-20 June 2010
Cemal Resit Rey Cultural Center, Istanbul

This event combines the first international female calligraphers’ symposium with a diploma (icazet) ceremony, a calligraphy exhibition, and a workshop. 45 female calligraphers from Turkey, Iran, Spain, England, Syria and the UAE will participate; 26 female calligraphers will receive their icazet during the event.

The book ‘Dünden Bugüne Kad?n Hattatlar / Female Calligraphers Past and Present’ (in both Turkish and English), authored by Dr. Hilal Kazan, will also go on sale at the opening. The volume contains not only images of the works of 163 female calligraphers whose work spans from the first years of Islam to today, but also their biographies, where available their photographs, and images of their gravestones and relevant archival documents.

The event is sponsored by the Turkish Prime Ministry, IRCICA (Research Center for Islamic History Art and Culture), and the Greater Municipality of Istanbul.

Project + Project Coordination: Dr. Hilal Kazan (Calligrapher & Art Historian)

For more information please contact: or

Ceiling of the Blue Mosque

By the Pen: an Islamic Calligraphy Workshop

I’m excited to announce the upcoming workshop By the Pen: An Introduction to Calligraphy in the Islamic Tradition. This hands-on weekend will allow both beginning and advanced students in Islamic calligraphy to hone their skills and better understand the rich cultural context of this art form. The workshop will be held June 18-20 (2010) at a beautiful retreat center in Stony Point, NY, and taught by Elinor Aishah Holland. Ms. Holland was instrumental in the creation of this website, and her calligraphy is featured both in the Calligraphy Qalam logo, and in the videos throughout the site. Watch this interview to learn more about her own interest and background in Islamic calligraphy, and a bit about her teaching philosophy.

One of the issues those of us who live in the United States and are interested in Arabic script calligraphy constantly encounter is the lack of qualified teachers. Workshops like these offer students of calligraphy the unique chance to pack in several in-depth lessons over the course of an intensive weekend. I am planning to attend this workshop, and I hope to see many of you there!

Below is an embedded pdf with further details about the workshop (click on it to view the pdf full-screen, or download the pdf). To register, visit the Stony Point Center’s website.

Istanbul, Part One

Last month I had the great privilege of visiting Istanbul for a week. This post is the first in a series about the calligraphy organizations and resources I discovered on my trip.

The purpose of my trip was to learn more about Arabic and Ottoman calligraphy, since Istanbul is the center for this art form. The timing of my visit coincided with that of my mentor Elinor Aishah Holland; together we spent time with fellow calligraphers, visiting museums and organizations with links to calligraphy (or hat, as it’s called in Turkish), and practicing calligraphy.

One of the most wonderful things about Istanbul is that there is calligraphy everywhere you turn. Mosques, municipal buildings, homes, water fountains—you name it, there’s calligraphy on it. And many of these works were created by Ottoman master calligraphers, so it’s good calligraphy. In this first post, I’m going to share photos of some of the calligraphy I encountered while walking around the city and visiting mosques and museums.

New Gallery of Islamic Art in Detroit

The Detroit Institute of Arts opened a new Gallery of Islamic Art on February 28, 2010.

From the Associated Press:

DETROIT (AP) – In the heart of the largest concentration of Muslims in the U.S., the Detroit Institute of Arts this weekend is opening a new permanent gallery of Islamic art showcasing exhibits including a rare 15th-century Quran of a Mongol conqueror.

Among the gallery’s treasures: one of the largest-known Ottoman mosque candlesticks from about 1500; an elevated giant cut-velvet summer floor covering made between 1650 and 1700 in Turkey, believed to be the largest of its kind; and a 15th-century leather-bound Quran, whose gold-flecked paper was given by the Ming emperor of China to Timur, one of the Mongol conquerors of the Middle East.

Check out the collection on their website:

Wissam Shawkat

Wissam Shawkat is one of my favorite calligraphy artists. Based in Dubai, he is an extremely talented calligrapher, as well as an exceptionally kind person. When I first contacted him to ask permission to include his work in the Calligraphy Qalam gallery (search for shawkat), he not only gave me permission, but sent me additional images to include!

Wissam recently contacted me to let me know that he has launched a new website, On this website you will find a wonderful mix of his contemporary and traditional calligraphy work—everything from fine art to logos, typography, environmental graphics, and graphic design work. I’ve included a few of my favorites below, with his permission. I encourage you to check out his site—and get ready to be inspired.

Arabic Calligraphy in the Ottoman era

An event at the Dubai Arabic Calligraphy Centre

The Dubai Arabic Calligraphy Centre cordially invites you to attend a specialized set of lectures that covers the history of the art of Arabic calligraphy.

By Dr. Sulieman Berk

7-9 January 2010, 6 to 8.30 pm, Luxury Ball Room, Centre of Excellence – BLDG 2, Gate Village, Dubai International Financial Center

For inquiries, please contact: 050 5533835

See the invitation below for further details.

Dynasty Maps

The Georgian National Museum has created a great tool for those studying the history of Islamic Art. Their online Dynasty Maps allow users to choose a dynasty such as the Umayyad Caliphate, and then to see the reach of that dynasty geographically portrayed on a map.