Art Changing the World

Ahmet Çoktan has been in 18 countries in 24 years, including 3 years in Japan and 6 months in Austria. In 2009 and 2010 he made the Guinness Book of records for his book, illuminations and paper marbling.

Spending the entire year in Turkey this year for the first time in the last 24, Ahmet Çoktan described for Skylife his new project and some of his memories.

Can you tell us something about your latest project in which you introduced the arts of marbling, illumination and quilling (paper filigree) in exhibitions and seminars in several countries around the world?
For three years I’ve been recreating the Elhamdülillah (Thank You, Allah) inscriptions of the master calligraphers using the quilling technique. I have used the technique to recreate the works of some of the great calligraphers of recent history as well as those of colleagues in Egypt, Kuwait, Syria and Iran.
Elhamdülillah is an expression that is used to express gratitude and appreciation for a job done. It applies to all entities both animate and inanimate. We think that things whose voices we don’t hear don’t make a sound, but they have been giving thanks to their Creator for as long as the universe has existed. We should listen to the sounds of their silence and try to be good human beings. We must love the whole universe, because love is the reason Allah created the universe.

You don’t just give exhibitions and seminars, you also work intensively with the physically and mentally handicapped. What sort of changes have you observed during your work?
I had a meeting with teachers and instructors at the Khalifa School in Kuwait, a school for children with special needs. A student passing by the door saw me and came in. “Welcome,” he said. “I love you and your art very much, but let me not disturb you further.” Then he shook my hand and left. Everyone in the room was weeping at that moment. The school principal told me that that boy was 18 years old and that it was the first time he had spoken a word in his entire life.

How did that transformation affect you?
The biggest television, the fastest car, a home in the most luxurious complex... Consumption knows no bounds, yet unfortunately few of us are aware of this. After a while however we realize that this is not what we are looking for. What we are really seeking, the thing that we yearn for, needs to be in our heart and the journey we make to God. My experiences make me feel I can motivate people in that direction, and that makes me happy.

The symbols and their meanings,

The rose
In Anatolia the name rose is an omnibus term for all flowers. It symbolizes Our Lord, the Prophet Muhammed (Peace Be Upon Him). Indeed, the scent of the rose is believed to be the scent of the Prophet himself.

Chintamanı or Chinese cloud
This is a potent symbol not only in the Islamic arts but in eastern philosophy. The crescents created by the three overlapping circles form eyes. Those eyes symbolize the eye of the heart, the eye of the mind and the eye of the world. Each is independent of the others, yet together they express a unified outlook on life.

Tree of life
In life there are sometimes are dry branches and thorns, in other words, sorrows and difficult times. And sometimes there are green leaves and flowers bloom, in other words, happiness. Sometimes that happiness is shared as when two trees merge and blossom. At the very top is the soul’s liberation from enslavement, in other words, Union with the Creator, which is depicted by clouds.