Designs of Faith

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We are in the Muslim holy month of Ramadan. This is a time of prayer, reflection, atonement and fast… a time of faith and of putting life in balance.

Mine Calik making a rose
Mine Calik making a rose

Customarily only two meals are taken during the days of Ramadan: Suhoor (in Arabic), or the morning meal, taken before sunrise; and Iftaar (in Arabic), or the evening meal, taken at sunset, with nutritional foods including fresh fruits, soups and cakes. The celebration of Eid Al-Fitr breaks the fasting and concludes the Ramadan observance (which ends this year on Wednesday, August 7). Families and friends gather, with special prayers, greetings, gifts and traditional foods. In Turkey the feast also is known as the Sugar Feast (Şeker Bayramı), because of the traditional desserts prepared.

While Ramadan is a time of devotion, there also is a beautiful and important traditional art that is a form of Islamic spiritual prayer. At Tucson Meet Yourself, this centuries-old traditional art — called Ebru — annually is demonstrated by two master artists, Mustafa and Mine Calik, who came to the United States from Turkey in 2004.

Marble art, say the Caliks, is an art of faith. The artistic outcome often is unpredictable, as the art may be altered by air bubbles or even the pressure of the brush. You need great patience while preparing the dyes and creating a design, they note.

Mustafa Calik

“In Ebru, when we use the second color, it doesn’t destroy the first color — It is just like finding a way of living together in a harmony,” says Mustafa. “It is said by many Ebru artists that patience, love and devotion are the most necessary skills to master in this art; it is not as easy as it looks.”

Ebru is a visual symphony, he continues. Colors and textures weave together into brand-new portraits–yet each one remains distinct. “It’s a striking example of the balance between interdependence and the freedom to express what makes us all unique.”

The traditional art makes use of natural earth pigments for its vivid colors and for dispersing the paint in an oxgall substance.

Brushes of various thickness and length are traditionally made of horsehair and rose branches. According to the Caliks, Ebru is one of the oldest Turkish paper arts, with roots in the 13th century. The preparation of materials and complexity of the symbolic designs make this an extremely difficult art to learn, requiring many years of study.

Ebru, Mustafa explains, is formed by carefully taking dye to draw patterns on water. Paper is gently placed on the surface to absorb the colors, and then lifted away, revealing designs brilliant and graceful. “We are using rose brunch which represents love and peace. All the dyes are from the ground, which represent humble and generosity,” says Mustafa.

“The Tulip represents Allah (God) and the rose represents our Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon Him). Mine is good at making the rose, and I like to make Tulip. I like red and blue color. She likes light brown and purple,” he continues.

The tulip
The Tulip

The Caliks, with their demonstration of the dots and swirls of the Ebru marbling effect, will be part of 2013 Tucson Meet Yourself Folk Arts. To appreciate their intricate paper crafts and the Caliks’ beautiful exploration of tradition, visit the Folk Arts Courtyard October 11—13, when artists Mine and Mustafa will wrap the spirit of gratitude, balance and faith into timeless Ebru art.

– Tucson Ebru Art:
– Learn more about Ramadan from the Foundation for Inter-Cultural Dialog, established in 2004 as a center of cooperation among different cultures and faiths:

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