Your opinion : Videos

I had been going through my personal photo collection and, looking through my Turkish trip photos I took two years ago, I realize that I actually had taken a number of videos during that time. Most of the videos are of the surroundings and the places I had visited, which coincidentally places of great Islamic art and architecture significance.

However, I am on a bit of a crossroads here. I can’t post my videos as articles on the blog, unless I subscribe to a payment plan for WordPress, or I get myself a Youtube account to put all these videos online, and post the links in the articles.

I ask your help regarding this, and I would like your input, as a reader, on if I should post my videos here or not, and if I should, where should I put it.

I will post a poll below, and on the side. Your opinions and comments are very much appreciated!

View Survey

Observation – Islamic influences on Traditional Malay Textile pt.1

As I have been working for the local Ministry of Culture as a designer, I have gathered a lot of experience and knowledge of my own culture through observation and learning. And being a student of Islamic art and architecture, coupled with an understanding of my own history and culture, I can certainly say that I am quite adept at this topic.

The Malays are very heavily influenced by the Arabs after the coming of Arab traders and subsequently Islam into the region. Arabic and/or Islamic influences can be easily seen in almost all aspect of Malay culture – Performing arts, visual arts ,fashion,  architecture, music and so much more.

For example, one can see the influence of Arabic music in the traditional Malay music. The introduction of the Oud, known as the Gambus in the Malay society, as well as various percussions very important to the Arab community became a part of the traditional Malay music. You can also see the influence of Arab dance in the performing arts of the Malay. One of the clearest Arab influenced traditional Malay dance would be the Zapin in the Malay Peninsula or Jipin in Brunei. The steps of the dance accompanied by the Arab inspired music for the dance recalls of an Arabic influenced performance, without being too dependent on that culture, paving way to a unique Malay performing art.

The Malay textile or specifically the patterns used for the textiles is an important remark on how the Islamic and Arabic art influence a long held custom and tradition in the Malay world. There are a lot of Malay traditional textiles available, however for this article, I would like to concentrate on a few of them that showcases a clear Islamic influene, namely the Batik and the Songket/Tenunan (will be elaborated in the next part)

Batik – The Beauty of the Printed Textile

The Batik technique is known all over the world, however the most known version and perhaps most popular of Batik would be the Indonesian Batik. It is believed the word Batik is taken from the Javanese word Amba (to write) or Titik (to dot).

The technique uses several different ways to produce a Batik item. One technique, perhaps the oldest way is to peruse the wax resisting method, where designs were drawn on a piece of fabric using molten wax, left to harden and then soaked in dye, which will also then melt the wax, as usually the dye would be hot, or soaked in hot water separately. This technique was proven to be used by the Ancient Egyptians to draw designs on their mummies linen wrapping, where the linen would be dipped into wax and then designs would be scratched using a stylus. There are several evidences showing other cultures stretching from the African region to India and even to Japan and China also used the same technique, more or less, using different material or method (i.e African tribes would use cassava paste instead of wax). This technique of producing a batik product would result in finer, more delicately design items, as usually everything would be painstakingly done by hand from the drawing the design to dying the fabric. It is said that it could even take several months or even years to produce a fine article of Batik.

The more modern technique of producing Batik, and hence, less time and energy consuming would be the Stamping method, where a block of stamp, usually made in copper or other materials, would be dipped in dye to be stamped on the fabric. This produces a repetitive pattern, if using a singular stamp, or a unique pattern, if using several different stamps. In the 1800’s this technique were introduced by the Dutch in Indonesia to mass-produce Batik. Later Indonesian immigrants would bring both the Stamp and Drawn Batik techniques to Malaysia.

There are several influences in the motifs of Batik particularly in Indonesia. The influences include Hindu-Buddhist, European, Japanese, Indian, Chinese and Islamic. Here I would like to specifically elaborate on the Islamic influence on the Indonesian Batik.

The most apparent Islamic influence on the Indonesian Batik would be batik from Sumatera, specifically in Cirebon, Jambi and Bengkulu, where Arabic Calligraphy would be used – in itself or merely as influence – as a motif.

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Indonesian Batik with Arabic Calligraphy, Tropenmuseum, part of the National Museum of World Cultures

However Islamic influences can also be seen on more traditional, older Javanese patterns. Whether this is is a direct influence, indirect, intentional or unintended, or always had been that way since the beginning I do not have a say in it, as I am not an expert on such material. However you can see the parallels between certain pattern of Javanese Batik and traditional Islamic pattern, particularly the way the patterns were repeated, as you can see in the examples below –

kawung or Coffee Bean batik. Detail of a sarong. The pattern of overlapping circles is a common motif across many cultures.

Floor pattern at Itmad-Ud-Daulah’s Tomb. The pattern is less rounded, but essentially on the same square grid. The takeaway of the similarity between these two pattern are the star cross shapes coloured brown in both examples.

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Batik Banyumas. The left mostpattern resembles closely to the eight pointed

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Lustre tiles from Iran, probably Kashan, 1262, in the shapes of the Sufi symbols for the divine breath

 

Contemporary inland batik from Solo, Indonesia, with sidha drajat pattern. The Way the pattern is arranged is quite similar to the pattern below

Decorated tiles at Tash Hauli [Tach Khaouli] palace. Khiva, Uzbekistan

Appreciation – Istanbul Trip Pt.5 – Istanbul University

Apparently, just nearby the Beyazit Mosque, in the same square, in the Fatih district, is the Istanbul University. Although we weren’t able to go inside the University campus (I didn’t ask anyone if we could enter, but the gates was closed during that time) so we admired the campus from outside the main gate.

Istanbul university was founded on an earlier higher education institute called Darulfunun in 1846. Formerly, it was an Islamic Medrese (Religious School), founded right after Sultan Mehmet’s conquer of Constantinople. It was now known as Istanbul University in 1933, after the reformation brought by Turkey’s first president, Mustafa Kemal Ataturk.

The main entrance to the campus is a beautiful and curious building, combining Ottoman and Andalusian or Moroccan Islamic Art styles. Two stout towers (perhaps a guardhouse, or offices?) flank the gate on both side of the gate, with the gate itself facing the Beyazit Square and the Beyazit Mosque. While the whole of the building is clearly of late Ottoman architecture, some design elements were taken from Andalusian or Moroccan art, such as the imitation Yeseria ornamentation on the smaller portals of the gate, and the red and white arches which are reminiscent of the Mosque of Cordoba arches.

Apparently the design was influenced by a former Roman forum called the Forum of Theodosius, but I cannot find anything to confirm this. However sketched recreations of the forum shows two small doors flanking a larger main gate, so this theory might have some truth to it.

On top of the gates were calligraphy done in the Thuluth style. Facing the building on the right side right above the smaller right door is the first verse from the chaper Al-Fath, or the Chapter of Victory. It reads

إِنَّا فَتَحْنَا لَكَ فَتْحًا مُّبِينًا

Which means Indeed, We have given you, [O Muhammad], a clear conquest” – Saheeh translation. Perhaps this verse was chosen as a homage to the opening or conquest of Constantinople by Sultan Mehmet, or because the building itself is a doorway?

On the left side of the gate we can see another verse, taken from the same Surah. It is the third verse from the chapter. It reads

وَيَنصُرَكَ اللَّهُ نَصْرًا عَزِيزًا

Which meansAnd [that] Allah may aid you with a mighty victory.” – Saheeh translation. I think this is another nod to the conquest of Istanbul, or just to compliment the verse on the right.

In the center is a cartouche, although I cannot really make out what it reads except for the word Da’irah Arabic for district, or area. Umr Askariah? Not realy sure about it. So if you have any information on the calligraphy I would be very glad to know so please drop a comment down below!

On the topmost of the gate, dab smack in the middle just above the romanized Turkish for Istanbul University, is a Tughra of Sultan Abdulaziz, apparently only uncovered in 2007 after 81 years covered with a marble medallion after the reformation brought after by Ataturk. Apparently that’s why the colour of the stone slab surrounding the Tughra is different colour.

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The main gate of the Istanbul University, showcasing the Ottoman architecture and Andalusian influences

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The inside of the gate. Highly decorative paintwork very common in late Ottoman art and architecture – with a slight tinge of western art influences.

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Me in front of the gate. I just realize looking at the photo there was the guard at the smaller door. Kind of regret I did not ask to get inside the campus. You can see all the calligraphy cartouches here, except for the Tughra of Sultan Abdulaziz

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The view in front of the gate. You can see the Beyazit mosque from the gate and most of the square. On the left side from this view you can see the bazaars I had noted before.

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Me on the stairs leading up to the gate. When I see the older pictures of the university, most of the place were flat. Perhaps the hills were created to accommodate modern trappings such as roads and tram lines, which were not far from the gate.

Happy Islamic New Year 1441H

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It was the beginning of the New Hijra year 1441 last saturday, coinciding with the end of August. We had a long weekend after, so that’s why this post is late! I haven’t got my replacement laptop yet, as I don’t have the funds, so I am posting all my articles for this blog from my work computer.

1441 Years ago, the Prophet Muhammad (SAW) mae the epic migration (hijrah) from Mecca, where he and the early Muslims were prosecuted,to Yathrib, later called Medina An Nabawi, to a welcoming crowd. This is also a metaphor of migrating from evil to good in all aspects of our life, just as how the Prophet and his followers went from the dark evils of the disbelievers of Mecca to the bright hope Medina holds for them then.

I wish you all, my readers, Muslim or not, a happy and blessed New Year of Hijri.