32. Mevlana Sufi Dervish Dance, Istanbul


One of the most unusual sights I have had a chance to witness is the scene of the Mevlana order of Dervishes whirling to mesmerising Sufi music. I have long loved Sufi music and poetry including those of Rumi, Hafiz and Khayyam though as translations. Up until I watched the Mevlana Sufi order practice the Whirling trance I had not comprehended the shared roots of the music and the dance.

This is a a ceremony which involves a form of physically active meditation (sema)   where the semazen or dervish reaches a trance- like state to seek the source of all perfection.

Every aspect of the costume worn during the ceremony, each gesture, the direction and angle the arms are pointing to, the direction of the whirling, all carry a symbolic meaning. The aim of this physical form of meditation, as I understand it, is to abandon personal ego, seek oneness with the purity of spirit in order to receive god’s beneficence and to convey this blessing to those witnessing the sema. Each Sufi order is recognisable by the colour of the skirt worn by the semazen.

A single source of light poured over the semazen whirling in semi-darkness. I captured the scene from my memory.



Original:  Oil on canvas ; 12 x 16″  (305 x 410mm) ;framed

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