These art works are by the prolific musician and artist Mercan Dede. I first came across his work when I was in Istanbul years ago, and his ambient take on Sufi music featured in my Sounds of Sufism programme on Future Radio in 2010. Born in Istanbul and now resident in Canada, Mercan Dede's music integrates traditional Turkish instruments such as the ney and bendir with electronica to create a mix targeted at young dance club audiences. Sufism's liberal tendencies mean it is marginalised and sometimes persecuted by orthodox Islam, and Mercan Dede - aka DJ Arkin Allen - is in turn frowned on in traditional Sufi circles for, ironically, creatively implementing the Sufi doctrine of not going with the flow, but making the flow.
As can be seen in the three examples, Mercan Dede's art works embrace syncretic themes; a selection of his art and music is on his personal website. Mercan Dede is actively helping make the flow: a portion of the proceeds from sales of his art is used for supporting cultural and artistic projects for young people, and best-selling Turkish author Elif Şafak - who champions minorities - name checks him in her Sufi themed novel The Forty Rules of Love. A quote from that novel is apposite:
No two people are alike. No two hearts beat to the same rhythm. If God had wanted everyone to be the same, He would have made it so. Therefore, disrespecting differences and imposing your thoughts on others is tantamount to disrespecting God's holy scheme.
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