Congratulations to Dr Bilal Badat who successfully completed his PhD research this month. As his examiners agreed, his innovative study of pedagogy in Ottoman calligraphy will provide a seminal contribution to research into this traditional art form, contributing not only to our understanding of calligraphy, but also in terms of how the field might advance from current methodologies.
In this first study to reconstruct Ottoman pedagogical traditions, Dr Badat used historical archival research combined with undertaking a traditional apprenticeship in calligraphy. This departure from previous methodologies allowed him to draw on his own experience working with a master while reading and interpreting the historical texts.
The resulting profound insights into the traditional master-apprentice system would have been inconceivable had he not experienced this relationship himself. Reconstructing the fabric of Ottoman pedagogical structures in this way allowed him to understand more about the fascinating relationship between innovation and tradition within the framework of a traditional art form. He was also able to discuss aspects of the conceptualisation of calligraphy as a sacred body of knowledge and how this shaped and determined pedagogy and governed the relationship between master and apprentice. Within this framework the transmission of knowledge was seen as a sacred duty.
Based on his research into the social, political and religious contexts of calligraphy, as well as into the artistic processes involved, he was able to argue that these pedagogical structures influenced Ottoman calligraphy in a number of significant ways. Although his research opened many avenues for future research, that were discussed with great interest at his viva, he also concluded his writing by noting that even after four years of apprenticeship he still feels a sense of excitement at the prospect of continuing to work with his master to improve his skills as a calligrapher.
We hope that he will continue to achieve this balance between these aspects of his work and wish him all the best in his future endeavours.