Scripts 'n' Scribes

View Original

Calligraphy is Persistence: Profile of Calligrapher Shahryanshah Sirajuddin

Benjamin Franklin once said, “energy and persistence conquers all things.” If there is a calligrapher that embodies those words, Shahryanshah Sirajuddin is one. We begin a new year of artist profiles with someone whose determination and love of calligraphy brought him to Turkey, all the way from Indonesia. His sincere journey to learn the art of calligraphy is an inspiration for us living in the west where classes and teachers are not so readily available. His story teaches us that with persistence and energy any creative skill, no matter how overwhelming, can be learned.

Shahryanshah was born in Sangkulirang, Indonesia in March 1986, He graduated from the faculty of İslamic Law at Al-Azhar University in Egypt in 2009.  He received his icazet (diploma in calligraphy) for Riqa, Diwani and Jali Diwani from master calligrapher Belaid Hamidi in Egypt. Upon recommendation of his education at Al-Azhar university he went to Turkey in 2010 to continue learning calligraphy.

He practiced Thuluth and Naskh under the guidance of Turkish masters, Hasan Çelebi, Ferhat Kurlu and Mümtaz Seçkin Durdu and received his icazet under the auspices of İRCİCA (Research Center for İslamic History, Art and Culture). And he also received calligraphy lessons from various masters in İstanbul including Şavaş Çevik, Davut Bektaş, Ali Toy, Mehmed Özçay and Osman Özçay. Currently, he continues his work in calligraphy and is also working towards a Master’s degree at the Fine Arts Department in Fatih Sultan Mehmet Vakif University. He is married and a father of one child. He lives in Istanbul.

Shahryanshah is an award-winning calligrapher and has exhibited in many different countries, including Turkey, Algeria, UAE and Egypt. His work exudes both elegance and creativity. I recently reached out to him for an interview, which he very graciously accepted. He talked about his journey to calligraphy and shared valuable advice for students seeking to study this art.

What inspired you to study calligraphy

I have been interested in drawing since my childhood. When I was in middle school, my teachers loved my sketching and guided me to Islamic art. In that time, we didn’t have access to any calligraphy teacher or reference books. I was trying to copy the calligraphy works I found in a book which was simply photocopy-collection of works of calligraphers.  That was the first time I came across the works of Sami Efendi, Abdulkadir Saynaç, Hasan Çelebi, Davut Bektaş, Osman Özçay and famous calligrapher teachers from the Islamic world.

Shahryanshah Sirajuddin 

A friend of mine and I began to study calligraphy together. However, seeing my writings, my friend suggested that I should not continue since I show no skills for it. However, I never stopped working on my calligraphy. After high school, I went to Egypt to study at al-Azhar University and there I started my first calligraphy education with my teacher Belaid Hamidi. After receiving icazet (permission to teach) in Riqa, Diwani and Jali Diwani scripts, I came to Istanbul to continue my calligraphy education with the suggestion from my teacher. Here I found a good opportunity to exchange ideas and to take classes from many teachers. I have received icazet in Thuluth and Naskh scripts from my teachers Hasan Çelebi, Ferhat Kurlu and Mümtaz Seçkin Durdu. I also took classes from Davut Bektaş, Ali Toy, Savaş Çevik and Osman Özçay. Having these opportunities added immensely to my growth in calligraphy

How do you come up with your compositions?

At first, I worked with pencils and I was trying small projects. Then I would choose the best work I did and I would work on that project in a large scale multiple times. When I needed to change the position of letters, I would start all over. It takes at least 10 tries to prepare an outline for a calligraphy project.  When I am satisfied with the outline myself, I would show it to my teachers and get their opinions on the details.

Sometimes if I get stuck on a composition, I would make a prayer in the form of Surah Fatiha and send the prayer to all of my teachers -- just as the old masters used to do it, including Yaqut Musta'simi, Ibn Muqla, Seyh Hamdullah, Sami Efendi and Sevki Efendi. I would then sleep and in my dreams I would find a solution to my composition. It may sound irrational but this is something that has happened to me time after time and has helped me.

When I work on calligraphy I try to keep my wudhu (ablution) because I believe the art is not just about talent, but, for me, it's also a form of worship (ibadah) and courtesy (adab/akhlaq). My main intention is to write kalamullah (Word of God-Al Quran) in a beautiful way.

Most important thing you learned from your teachers

Patience and perseverance. In calligraphy, it is very important to work with a teacher. It is necessary to keep writing continuously. There is a saying; “The core of calligraphy is hidden in the education one takes from [his/her] teachers, its strength comes from working hard on writing, its consistency comes from living on Islam.”

Your favorite calligraphers

From old calligraphers, I get inspired the most from Sami Efendi in Jali thuluth, from Şevkı Efendi in thuluth and naskh, from İsmail Hakkı Altunbezer in Jali Diwani and from Mehmet İzzet in Riqa and Diwani. From today’s calligraphers, I get inspired from Hasan Çelebi, Davut Bektaş, Ferhat Kurlu, Mümtaz Durdu Seçkim, Osman Özçay, Mehmet Özçay, Savaş Çevik, and Ali Toy. 

Shahryanshah Sirajuddin’s Exhibitions / Workshops:

  • Exhibition in Dolmabahce Art Gallery İstanbul, 2013.
  • Exhibition in Festival of İslamic Art in Algeria, 2014.
  • Exhibition and Workshop in Jali Diwani style in Sharjah Ramadhan Festival, 2014.
  • Exhibition in Mesk VI Art festival in İstanbul, 2015.   
  • Exhibition with Mr. Hasan Çelebi in Dolmabahce Art Gallery İstanbul, 2016 
  • Workshop in Yunus Emre İnstitute in Alexandria-Egypt, 2015.
  • Exhibition and Workshop in Youth Expo İstanbul, 2016.
  • Exhibition in Fatih Sultan Mehmet university in Istanbul 2017. 
  • Exhibition in Pendik İnternational Art Festival in İstanbul 2017. 

The Awards He Has Won:

  • 1st Place for Jali Thuluth Categories in İnternational Master of Future II Competition, in İstanbul, 2015.
  • Encouragement for Jali Thuluth Categories in 4th. Albaraka İnternational Calligraphy Contest, in İstanbul, 2015.
  • Encouragement for Jali Thuluth Categories in 7Tepe7Sanat İnternational Calligraphy Competition in İstanbul, 2015.
  • 3rd Place in Urfa İnternational Calligraphy Competition 2016 in Turkey.
  • Encouragement for Different Calligraphy style Categories in 2nd. İnternational Hilye Asy-syarifah Competition İstanbul, 2015.
  • Encouragement for Thuluth and Jali Thuluth in Konya İnternational İslamic Art Competition 2016.
  • Encouragement for Jali Thuluth Categories in 2nd 7 Tepe7Sanat İnternational Calligraphy Competition in İstanbul, 2017.
  • 2nd place for Thuluth Categories in İnternational Master of Future V Competition, in İstanbul, 2017.

For more information on Shahryanshah's work, please visit his Instagram page:

Photo credit: Shahryanshah Sirajuddin

Translation credit: Serap Tay Stamoulas, PhD

Gallery of Shahryanshah's work: (click on the images for enlarged view)