Inception from Islam Aly


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Coptic bound book. Laser-cut Fabriano and tracing paper, plexiglass mirror, laser-engraved wooden boards, leather wrappings connected to seven miniature circular books. Inkjet printed text in English and Arabic.

Inception is inspired by stories and journeys of immigrants and refugees. It is a bilingual codex in English and Arabic. The book is based on the twelfth-century Persian verse poem “The Conference of the Birds” written by Farid Aldin Al-Attar. The poem is about the search for truth and integrity, which Aly parallels to the storiess he heard on this project of refugee’s quest to rediscover themselves.

Birds meet to begin searching for their perfect king. But to find him, they need to start a difficult journey. The birds show their doubts and fears to their leader, the hoopoe. He encouraged and supported the birds to be confident, grateful, and honest. Eventually the birds recognize that their king is each of them and all of them.

The English text is adapted from Afkham Darband’si translation. The Arabic text is adapted from Badee Mohamed Gomaa’s Arabic translation ‘Manteq Al Tayr’. The bird images represented are from medieval Islamic artwork. Arabic calligraphy is done by Abdul Karim and Sabri.

Learn more about Inception and his other works on his website. Contact Islam directly if interested in purchasing a copy.

This work was commissioned as part of the Friends, Peace, and Sanctuary project in 2018/2019 and can be viewed in the Swarthmore College Rare Books Collection. It was exhibited at Swarthmore College McCabe Library and the Philadelphia Free Library - Parkway Central.

Photo credits: Islam Aly (Photos 1-3 and below); Ricky Yanas (Photos 4-9 at Parkway Central Free Library of Philadelphia);Husam Al-Obaidi(Photo 10 at Swarthmore College McCabe Library)

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Some archival materials that provided inspiration: Islam inspiration.png

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