I am deeply honoured, and grateful to His Majesty Sultan Qaboos bin Said, Sultan of Oman, with the prestigious scholarly Order, the “Sultan Qaboos Order for Culture, Science and Art” of the First Degree that has been conferred upon me. This has been a source of encouragement of exceptional significance for IRCICA and for me in carrying out the projects we have undertaken, directed and coordinated in various areas of research, international cultural relations and institutional cooperation. From this recognition at highest level of the pertinence and success of our activities we derive further and stronger commitment.
The Order’s conferral took place during the period of the Muscat International Festival for Arts and Handicrafts, a large-scale cultural and artistic event organized by Muscat Municipality which brings together performers of the different traditional arts and handicrafts from far and near across continents. During the 2011 and 2012 sessions of the Festival, IRCICA was co-organizer of exhibitions of artisans at work and participated in the coordination and selection process of the Muscat Award for Innovation and Creativity in Crafts. The award is one of the world’s most outstanding in its genre for its aims and scope, honouring innovation and creativity in fourteen categories covering almost all branches of handicrafts. The event is followed with great interest each year. The rate of participation of artisans in the Festivals was 150 from 25 countries in 2011 and 118 from 32 countries in 2012. The Sultanate of Oman has extended close support to IRCICA’s activities since the 1980s. Renewed occasions were offered to me in recent years, particularly during the Muscat Festivals, to report on progress achieved in our activities and to present samples of our publications to the Royal Court and the Government of the Sultanate of Oman.
More recently, in April, I was greatly honoured to meet with H.E. Ali Bongo Ondimba, President of the Republic of Gabon, during the Ninth Session of the OIC’s Islamic Conference of Information Ministers which was held in the Gabonese capital Libreville on 17-20 April 2012. Furthermore, in recent months we have had a number of high-level visitors from Turkey to our headquarters: the Speaker of the Turkish Parliament Mr. Cemil Çiçek, Deputy Prime Minister Mr. Bekir Bozdağ, Foreign Minister Prof. Ahmet Davutoğlu, Defense Minister Mr. İsmet Yılmaz; the Minister for EU Afairs Mr. Egemen Bağış received me in his office. These meetings were excellent opportunities for me to inform them on developments recorded in IRCICA’s activities.
IRCICA’s long-term program of architectural studies and workshops on the Islamic heritage of Al-Quds/Jerusalem is one of its most authentic activities that won interest and recognition on international scale. One of the regular features of this program is its annual seminar, which usually takes place at the beginning of each academic year with the participation of the collaborating universities. One of the seminar’s tasks is to review the activities carried out by architectural faculties in contribution to this program which are implemented usually in the form of research and studio assignments, projects and theses. In January our Department of Architecture and Heritage Preservation organized the fourth annual seminar, with panels and lectures on theoretical and practical aspects of the Islamic urban heritage in the Old City in Al-Quds. At present we are making preparations to organize the second Architectural Summer School, to take place this coming Summer, after the first one held in June-July 2011.
A well-known major program that IRCICA launched as of 1986 and has since then organized regularly every three years is the International Calligraphy Competition. Each round of the competition was dedicated to one of the acknowledged masters in the history of this art. Thus up to this point eight master calligraphers from different regions of the Muslim world have been commemorated. This has grown to become an established IRCICA tradition awaited by calligraphers, connoisseurs and the public at large. Every round also is an occasion for calligraphers to familiarize themselves with the life and work of a particular master and tradition. Over the last twenty-six years, this calligraphy competition developed into the major and only forum where the quest for excellence in this art continues as it allowed thousands of calligraphers to participate in it from within and outside the Muslim world. As the event matured its contributions towards enhancing our knowledge of the different aspects relating to this art, artistic commitment on the part of its practitioners, appreciation and observance of classical standards, among others, in the practice of Islamic calligraphy, came in full public view. Hence the event is followed closely not only by calligraphers from around the world but also by the larger public interested in Islamic art and art history. In brief, this calligraphy competition has become one of the defining activities carried out by IRCICA. For the initial conception of this competition – as well as for many other activities pursued by IRCICA – an expression of gratitude is long overdue to H.E. Prof. Ekmeleddin İhsanoğlu who formulated the concept of the competition and presided over many of its rounds during his tenure as Director General of IRCICA (1980-December 2004). In the same tradition that he has established, we have the honour and pleasure of dedicating the ninth competition, to be organized in 2012-2013, to Prof. İhsanoğlu. In so doing, we wish to permanently record in the history of the competition program an acknowledgment of his seminal contribution, as a patron and promoter, to the preservation and development of this art. The Ninth International Calligraphy Competition in the name of Ekmeleddin İhsanoğlu is thus declared open. I thank the participants in advance for their interest and wish them success.
Dr. Halit Eren