Turkish artisans keep ancient mosaic art alive
Talented Turkish artisans have turned mosaic creativity, which dates back thousands of years ago in human history, into money-making modern craft. Not only so; it is also taught as part of some academic curricula.
Mustafa Kamanilioglu, an internationally-acclaimed mosaic artisan, affirms mosaic aficionado pay generously for a meticulously made plate. Mosaic panels for decorating the floor or the wall fetch up to 1,500-4,000 Turkish Lira per one.
An ornamented and colored plate, made of tiny stones, gems, ceramic or, usually, other solid materials, requires some 10 days of careful, subtle and concentrated labor.
However, the cost may reach as high as 50,000 liras for the piece that is more complex and luring for the eye with subtle combination of lines, shapes, pieces and colors. Much more effort and focus as well as longer time are put to make such highly attractive decorative plates. (Turkish Lira=USD 3).
Kamanilioglu, interviewed by Kuwait News Agency (KUNA), said one square meter of eye-catching mosaic made of small stones requires several days of work, but the artisan may labor for months on one plate, depending on size, complexity of the assemblage of lines, arrays, patterns and shape making.
The artisans, in making very expensive pieces, use thousands of stones of various colors to make architectural forms, shapes, or depict pictures of living creatures or plants. These require higher skills and greater creativity.
The mosaic art, according to the available records, was born 5,000 years ago B.C. during the Sumerian era, when it was known as a kind of sculpturing. The craft boomed with the years in Mesopotamia, central Asia and other regions before turning into an international industry, living and widely acclaimed till today.
Turkey, along with a number of countries in the Mediterranean, is a hub of this artistic industry, modern and ancient.
Kamanilioglu, who has been engaged in this art since youth, earning him several local awards, says this kind of art has not spread internationally to the aspired level due to several reasons, such as heavy weight of the pieces and their high prices.
Mosaic is now taught at some universities across the globe. Kamaniliogulu himself teaches the material at the local university, Hacettepe, located in Ankara. His students include housewives and retirees.
According to the records, the mosaic art flourished in the Byzantine Empire from the 6th to the 15th centuries. Mosaic was widely used on religious buildings and palaces in early Islamic art, including Islam's first great religious building, the Dome of the Rock in Jerusalem, and the Umayyad Mosque in Damascus. Mosaic went out of fashion in the Islamic world after the 8th century. One trend of the Islamic mosaic is known as Arabesque.
Archeologists have excavated huge amounts of ancient mosaic panels dating to various old civilizations. The Mediterranean countries are particularly rich in these relics; many displayed at museums.