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Journal Article

A Modern Master of Islamic Calligraphy and Her Peers

David Simonowitz
Journal of Middle East Women's Studies
Vol. 6, No. 1 (Winter 2010), pp. 75-102
Published by: Duke University Press
DOI: 10.2979/mew.2010.6.1.75
Stable URL:
Page Count: 28
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A Modern Master of Islamic Calligraphy and Her Peers
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ABSTRACT In the Islamic world, an important body of biographical material traces the chains of transmission of calligraphic instruction over many centuries. Although there is comparatively little documentation on women who have practiced calligraphy, scattered references do mention female masters. Nevertheless, one can rarely associate a female master with an extant piece of calligraphy. This article provides an introduction to the person and work of Hilal Kazan, a Turkish female master calligrapher who holds traditional authorizations to practice. Such authorizations accord a prestige that has few parallels in Western societies. Kazan is, in a sense, a living national treasure. The study situates Kazan and other Muslim women in a genealogical tree of master calligraphers. It suggests furthermore that some of these women are akin to religious scholars. Finally, the study demonstrates that there is room for women to advance in this traditional Islamic discipline and that further research is merited.

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