Khadim Ali’s workshop participants show their art

7:10 | Published on November 18, 2013 | 88 Views

Participants in the Guggenheim’s Mind’s Eye workshop featuring Khadim Ali show artworks that they have made in response to the story from the Shahnameh. One recalls having been inspired to create a battle scene; another describes producing an image of crossed swords, suggested by the fact that the Arabic language “has something like a couple of dozen words for sword, because the sword is so important.” Ali discusses the significance of such imagery, and his enjoyment of the works. Watch Part 5 of this Mind's Eye with Khadim Ali series.

For more information, visit the Guggenheim UBS MAP Global Art Initiative.

Download the Transcript (PDF)

This video features No Country artist Khadim Ali; Georgia Krantz, Senior Education Manager, Adult and Access Programs, Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum; and partially sighted or blind participants of the Mind’s Eye workshop (indicated by first name within the transcript). 

Orah: Well, what I got out of the whole story was battle. I was thinking of all of the different epic stories from the past. You know, like Beowulf. So I depicted the two armies, the blacks and the purples. And they just met in combat. The ground is underneath, and red from the bloodshed. And then there’s the sky. And up at the top, I have a little yellow. That’s the gods looking on, watching everything. And that’s basically it.

Dan: I chose one image. The one that resonated with me was the image of the sock lying in the stream, after he was murdered. So on the bottom, you have ocean waves. Then out of that comes the sun, impeached, this curved figure with a black crown. And then on the left coming down are the tears from the father, in black. And then the whole thing is backgrounded in bright red for the blood of this massacre that happened.

Ellen: Well, like Orah, I found myself thinking about all the epic stories of every culture, which are filled with this kind of violence, this separation of people over things that sometimes doesn’t make any sense. I also was thinking of the Thousand and One Nights, in which, when I read it as a kid, I remember being impressed by the fact that the Arabic language is a language that has something like a couple of dozen words for sword, because the sword is so important. And it just made me think of that.

Georgia Krantz: Can you describe what your work looks like?

Ellen: It’s just a couple of swords, crossed, bloody tips, and blood dripping down from them.

Andrew: Well, the story reminds me of different tribes fighting with spears and knives. And then at the end, you know, somebody gets killed. The drawing that I drew has different colors, of different tribes, blending, trying to make it lighter. I put red and purple and white, and all different colors. That’s all I can say.

Georgia Krantz: So, Andrew, the different colors are the different tribes?

Andrew: Yes, yes.

Georgia Krantz: And they’re all interconnecting?

Andrew: Yes.

Georgia Krantz: With lots of movement, and tension?

Spider: Well, I went with certain symbolic images that hit me from the story. I started first with a black saber-type sword. And then I started with the tears of blood coming down to this kind of broken heart between the father and son. I took flesh tone—being the child that was killed—and then made this mass of blood as the broken heart. Then I surrounded it with green colors, meaning that that was earthly, that this thing happened. And then I have this yellow sun. But it was such a black moment—almost like an eclipse—I did a blackened thing around a very yellow sun image. And then I took the purple as this kind of spirit coming from the universe, trying to, you know, bring love and peace back to this shattered world. I used the blue as at first, I was thinking, almost like a lightning strike from the sky, this kind of devastation. But then I realized it could also represent the water, turbulent water. So, it’s very elemental. And I’m not usually one to go so bold with pressure. But I put a lot of pressure in because that’s the way it hit me. I was listening to the story, and it moved me; it was a very sad tale. And listening to your amazing background, I was just very taken with everything you shared. And I’m just feeling a lot of very deep feelings about what’s going on in the world—you know, that people have to go through these things.

Khadim Ali: I really like the work here, which is totally different work than the work that I do. Of course, they are another source of inspiration for me. And it gives me more freedom. If you are trained in a traditional school, and if you are known as a miniature painter, there are lots of expectations around that. People know you as a miniature painter. Those expectations bring lots of boundaries. So here, I feel that freedom. And I think I’m going to do something like this in the future, yeah! I like the idea of a black-crowned sun. It’s very sad, very powerful. And like Ellen said, there are different names for the sword, because the sword is very important in that culture.

Ellen: In their poetry . . .

Khadim Ali: In the Arabic language. And if you notice, there’s a big sword in Saudi Arabia’s flag, too. And if you go to the Middle East, there are Arabs who still carry swords with them. So, here this black sword, a curved sword, is a very Arabic sword. And I remember as a kid, when I was looking at the illustrations in our textbooks, there were some Muslims fighting Christians. And the Christian sword was straight, and the Muslim swords were curved. So it made me think of this.

Karen: It’s amazing they met!

Khadim Ali: And here, Andrew’s work, is very powerful, too. It’s very, like he said, there are different tribes, and different colors symbolize different tribes. They are all powerful but, you know, they’re merging and overlapping with each other. It’s amazing. It’s really good! Thank you very much. It’s amazing work. Thank you!