While our students fulfill their academic responsibilities, they also engage in different hobbies according to their special interests and abilities. One of them is Akif Demir, a fifth-grade medical student of Afyonkarahisar Health Sciences University Faculty of Medicine, who is interested in the art of calligraphy. Demir, who lives in Eskişehir, answered our questions about the reasons for his orientation to art, the characteristics of the education that should be taken to learn calligraphy, and what kind of a balance he established between his school and art education as a physician candidate.
When and how did you get interested in calligraphy? What were the reasons that directed you to this hobby?
Calligraphy signs, mosque inscriptions, fountains and tomb inscriptions would have attracted my attention for as long as I could remember. However, this interest was only in the form of curiosity without knowledge. After I read about the thought of Islam and the imagination of civilization for a few years, this interest started to take on a concrete meaning.
If we describe the art of calligraphy as a window of a house, music as a door, Süleymaniye as a chandelier, al-Hamra as a carpet; the person who has known the house will notice the situation immediately when the window is removed, the door is broken, or the chandelier falls. The stolen tile of the New Mosque, a shop poster nailed to the wall of the Grand Bazaar and a manuscript smuggled abroad will also be important for a person who has the idea of integrity.
For someone who has the idea of ”Integrity and Continuity” regarding our civilization, Aşık Veysel is as important as Dede Efendi and Tanburi Cemil. Similarly, our famous calligrapher from Afyonkarahisar Ahmet Karahisarî and Hekim Ebubekir er-Razi, known as the Galen of the Arabs, are equally important. Katip Çelebi, astronomer Taqiyyuddin and Ibn Khaldun are also highly regarded characters.
As a result, the art of calligraphy means much more to me than the signboards that make money at auctions and hang in the houses because Islam is a civilization of writing. Calligraphy is part of the whole for us and the construction of civilization. The inscription of the Bursa Ulu Mosque and even the ruined fountain in our neighborhood is as important to me as the writings of Kazasker Mustafa İzzet in Hagia Sophia. With these thoughts, I saw the pandemic process as an opportunity and went to my calligrapher Emre Özdemir. He accepted me as a student. My journey, which I was just at the beginning of it, started in this way.
What is the basic training for calligraphy?
When I went to his workshop, my teacher did not immediately grasp the reed pen. He made me watch documentaries, symposiums, panels and conferences on the art of calligraphy for weeks. Before I met with pen and writing, it enabled me to comprehend the culture, story, method and importance of this art. Calligraphy education is built on “the practice” as in all traditional arts and science education in our ancient culture. In other words, the student makes face-to-face practice with his teacher. That is, it is indispensable to be in the same place to study knowledge.
In our culture, graduation in science and art can be achieved with ratification. Ratification is an active process. His master / teacher not only vouches for his student’s talent, determination, and artistic performance; he also vouches for his morality, religion and life throughout his life. If the master notices that his student has gone astray, he can take back the ratification he has given no matter how many years have passed. For this reason, the master is responsible for his student throughout his life, and the student is also under the moral supervision of his teacher throughout his life.
The student of calligraphy first tries to imitate the spelling of the prayer “Rabbi yessir”, which comes out of his teacher. The student writes only “Rabbi yessir” for six months or a year. This is both an introduction to the lectures, and it can also distinguish whether the student is enthusiastic or aspiring. Besides, the student desires help by saying, “My Lord, make it easy, don’t make it harder …” when starting the writing. After this process is over, the student started to study the writing of letters one by one. I am also currently studying the independent writing of the letters. In order to produce a work, a calligrapher needs to study for an average of 8-10 years.
What are your long-term goals in this area?
My long-term wish is to be a good physician by preserving this world of meaning and value that I have acquired. My concern is to write very well, to learn the culture of this art rather than to make artworks and to pass it on to future generations as much as possible. After all, when we look at the idea of civilization that I mentioned at the beginning, just like in the artworks such as Dede Efendi’s “Yine bir Gülnihal” and “Çeçen Kızı” by Tanburi Cemil, a composition you wrote in 2021 will be released as a composition written in this period in the history of Islamic thought when a few centuries past.
Rocks have a geologic past, but human beings have a history. I want to be a physician and calligrapher who is aware of its roots and history. In centuries of history, I know my place and realize that I am not alone. I think that just as a tree makes sense in relation to the forest and habitat it is in, so do human beings in relation to its history and roots.
Medical education is an intensive training process and we know that medical students often find it difficult to devote time to other studies or free-time activities. How do you keep a balance between your training and calligraphy?
Medical education has an aspect that occupies the mind outside the school boundaries, rather than filling your entire day. For this reason, it is difficult for many students to deal with other activities or to read a book. However, I am one of those who think that reading outside the field, art and hobbies make us open-minded and relax. I think that we can pursue our hobbies together with medical classes.
I have passed my classes with a high score, which means that I did not need to take the final exam. When we attended formal education, I tried not to miss conferences, concerts and theaters, even if it was an exam week or even the night before the exam. For example, it was very nice to listen to Murat Salim Tokaç, a doctor who is a tambour and ney performer, and chat with him at the “Afyonkarahisar Jazz Festival” last year.
Ahmet Süheyl Ünver and Alâeddin Yavaşca who are medical doctors, and a pharmacist Uğur Derman, continued their professional work together with their main professions in dozens of fields and made history. There are many more examples of physicians who are competent in different fields such as calligraphy, marbling, music and illumination. I am one of those who think that medicine and different branches of art can be carried out together.