Eva-Liisa Roht (Tallinn University, Estonia) “Ebru is like a Human Being” – Marbling Art (Ebru) in Turkey: The Perspective of the Contemporary Practitioner. The Connection between Ebru and Sufism”


Ebru is an art technique where with the help of brushes paint is applied on the surface of sized water. Afterwards the floating image is transferred to paper.

During the later period of the Ottoman Empire, some great masters of ebru used to work in a Sufi lodge in Istanbul. Marbled papers were used in bookbinding and later also calligraphy was written on the ebru papers. Nowadays ebru has become popularized as a hobby, and in addition to paper the image can be transferred also to other surfaces such as fabric, ceramic, wood etc.

But how do the artists/teachers of ebru in contemporary Turkey explain the importance of the art form for themselves? Why have they decided to dedicate themselves to this traditional art form? What makes a good ebru-artist? What kind of psychological effect has ebru had on the artists? And why is ebru like a human being?

In order to answer these questions, my presentation analyses ethnographical fieldwork materials (semi-structured interviews, notes from participant observation) produced by the author. For the analysis the concepts of spiritual states (hāl) and stations (maqām) and spiritual faculties (lataif-e sitta) from Sufi psychology are used.