When Mustafa Mukadder Erol was sixteen years old, his idol was neitl1er a soccer player nor a pop star. His idol was Hüseyin Kutlu, ilie imam of ilie Hekimoğlu Ali Paşa Mosque, an old mosque remaining from Ottoman peıiod, in Kocamustafapaşa. Imam Huseyin Kutlu, who was full of patience and wisdom, was also a prominent calligrapher. In his mystic chilly workshop witl1 skylight, he was teaching tl1e art of calligraphy to me students. AB he was teaching tl1is valuable form of art, which was never appriciated enough and was gradually vanishing, Imam Huseyin Kutlu only had one request from his students: Patience and faitl1. The reason was because calligraphy was a challenging art. Its rules were very strict and in order for a student to get his/her diploma, he/she was required to do his/her apprenticeship for 8-10 years and leam the art wiili patience. At me end of me tenili year, a diploma ceremony was held for me student and me student would become a master.
Mukadder Mustafa Erol, who was watching me students of Hekimoğlu Ali Paşa Mosque wiili jealousy at the age of sixteen, could not wait any longer and decided to be a student of me imam eleven years ago, at tl1e age of twenty fıve. He has few more years to get 11is diploma. But, he is already in love witl1 me art of calligraphy and the mystic Sufi music, which plays behind and carries all the delicacies of the past, as he is working in his workshop. Mukadder Erol is happier than anyone as he lives among the calligraphs, made by mostly other masters along with a few of his own, in his litde shop in the Grand Bazaar. He is happy because he is doing tl1e work he loves. He never drops his reed pen from his hand. He writes the old Arabic lerters over and over again witl1 the condition of following certain patterns. Watching him doing his art is enough to witness tl1e difficulty of his craft. When I mention this to him, Mukadder Erol, without raising his head, says “Of course” “Any kind of art which is done with the extreme attention is difficult. But, you cannot compaı·e the peace, that you feel once you finish your job, !ean back and take a look at your aıt, to anything else in the world.” Just before was going to cal! him a master, Mukadder Erol interrupted me and reminded that he was not a master, yet. Meanwhile, two young people was coming towards the shop. They shyly showed their wedding bands to him, they wanted him to inscribe somethirıg inside the bands. Doing that is a child’s play for Mukadder Erol. Compared to the difficulty of writing old Arabic letters, writing Latin lerters is a piece of cake. White he was inscribing what the young people wanted, he was giving me some more information.
There are hundreds of typefaces in old Arabic, each letter is written differendy in the beginning, rrıiddle and at the end of the sentence. Each has its own measures. That is the difficult part. The sense of aesthetic, which is created as the lerters come together, is direcdy related to these measures. It can take a master one year to finish writing a plaque. Just as it is in the art of painting, each calligrapher has a style; each one is a master in a different way. Mukadder Erol picked up his reed again after he fınished inscribing on the wedding bands the couple brought. There is a special irık into which the reed is soaked, and the making of this ink is another art itself. This ink is called “smut ink”. The ingredients are the smut, formed by buming the bristle of ‘karakıl’ goat with linseed oil, gum Arabic and rosewate. It has to be beaten a million times. Yes, Mukadder Erol has beaten this mixture, himself, a million times. Now, he has the ink that he likes. This is a sort of ink that never loses its quality. As a matter of fact, mostly calligraphers make tl1eir own inks. No one is content with the quality of the ink sold in the market.
According to Mukadder Erol, one needs to have patience, knowledge of geometry, talent and creativity in order to be a good calligrapher. Nowadays, he, together with his sister Hande and his little sons, try to do the best calligraphy work in his workshop. He prefers to buy crayons and papers for his five-year-old son instead of toys. His ten-year-old son has already started to teach his little brother what he had leamed from his father. As the family works, Erol juniors draw the calligraphies of their imaginations on a piece of pap er in one comer of the shop. After taking dasses for ten years, Hande can now perform all the gilding styles staıting from the 17th century. She is the biggest help for his brother and with her art, she adds a greater value to his work. Looking at his sister’s works makes Mukadder Erol as pleased as looking at his own works of calligraphy. Mukadder was ranked first in a worldwide contest in Moscow as he represented Turkey. He attended many fairs in many countries including Germany, Netherlands,
Indonesia, Singapore, Dubai, Ukraine, Russia, Switzerland, Spain, and France. In all these countries, he represented our country with success. However, he stili has some difficulties. He especially resents Turkish people’s failing to appreciate this art. However, I know that one of his calligraphies is exhibited in a prominent museum in France. In his little workshop in Cebeci Inn, tl1ere generally are foreigners. Mukadder Erol regretfully says: “There are people who are in love with these writings, some of them are Italians, some are British and they appreciate the value of this aıt, unfortunately, more than we do.” As we were talking, the Sufi music stopped playing. A deep silence filled the each comer of the room. I left Mukadder Erol alone with his old and new letters. Before entering into the crowd of the city, I wanted to enjoy the peace I felt inside. TI1e magic of the Sufi music and the old Jetters followed me for a while.
Mukadder Mustafa Erol