By Hassan Isilow
A classically trained Arabic calligrapher and Islamic artist Refik Carikci is making a name for himself in South Africa for his great art pieces and technique.
Carikci uses traditional techniques such as using olive oil as ink, making his own handmade paper and shaping bamboo to make pencils for his calligraphy work.
The Turkish artist who moved to South Africa 10 years ago, has practiced calligraphy for 37 years, and now teaches at the Turkish cultural center, Yunus Emre Institute in Johannesburg.
“I’m so happy to teach calligraphy in South Africa, because I’m giving back something to this country and my goal is to see young people take over from us,” he told Anadolu Agency at a one-day exhibition in Johannesburg showcasing his work.
He says calligraphy is relatively new in South Africa but has attracted many to his class at the Institute.
Carikci has exhibited on several platforms internationally and since moving to South Africa a decade ago he has become a well-known teacher of calligraphy.
His classes combine exploring both the technique as well as the spiritual progression required in engaging with the divine text, the Quran.
According to Carikci’s website, he began his artistic career after moving from his native Turkey to Germany in 1979 and after obtaining a degree in engineering in 1992.
“We are using our own handmade papers, and bamboo trees to cut our own pencils depending on the thickness you want to use,’’ he said adding that they also burn olive oil of which they use the smoke to make ink.
Islamic calligraphy is the artistic practice of handwriting based upon using alphabets of Islamic heritage countries, including Arabic, Ottoman and Persian calligraphy.
The development of Islamic calligraphy is strongly tied to the chapters of the Quran and excerpts from the holy book.
As a practitioner and teacher of calligraphy Carikci emphasizes the inexplicable connection between the revealed word in the Quran and its written form.
He also uses sand to draw calligraphy, a practice mainly used to teach young children. Most his students at Yunus Emre Institute praise him for his patience while teaching.
Carikci has his own art studio at his home in Pretoria. He teaches at schools and also to private individuals interested in calligraphy.
"When you work with Arabic alphabets, and verses of the Quran you don’t feel tired while drawing. You can go on and on. You feel motivated like you’ve just started drawing yet you’ve been doing it for hours," he said
* Felix Nkambeh Tih contributed to this piece from Ankara in Turkey.