Recently, students in Professor Semiha Topal’s “Introduction to Islam” class enjoyed a guest lecture over Zoom from Deniz Öktem-Bektaş, a calligraphy artist from Istanbul, Turkey. Professor Topal’s students have been learning about the role of art and architecture in Islamic history, and this lecture illustrated how Islamic artistic traditions remain signifcant today. Öktem-Bektaş detailed the historical development of calligraphy and explicated its importance in Islam, gave students a tour of her studio and tools, and provided a live demonstration of her work.
Öktem-Bektaş received a degree in English Literature in Turkey before coming to the U.S. to earn her master’s degree in Communication, Culture, and Technology from Georgetown University. While in D.C., she met Turkish calligrapher Mohamed Zakariya and became his student. Öktem-Bektaş eventually returned to Istanbul, the global center for calligraphic art, and completed her formal training as a calligrapher with Hasan Çelebi. Today, in addition to producing commissions, she leads workshops in calligraphy for students all over the world, continuing the master-student lineage unique to this tradition and art-form.