The Arabic Book of Shadows by Chandra Brooks.  All images and artwork are copyrighted and produced by Chandra Brooks.

Good mothers don’t chose favorites, but if I were to, The Arabic Book of Shadows would be mine. It is an absolute challenge to produce. With all the languages, there’s an element of shooting in the dark and hoping to reach my target. The target being to create something that feels like family of all the other books. With their being only one artist involved – myself, that would seem to be an easy accomplishment. It’s not easy. I’m one artist pretending to be of a different background each time I make a book. It’s impossible to be what you’re not, that’s the moral of the story: we cannot change the nature of things.

(insert images here: one of the French dictones written in Carolingian, the other of the translation)

When I was studying at Parsons, I attended some of the debates at Mannes College of Music. They were debating if Jazz could be taught. It broke off along ethnic lines as most cultural things tend to do. The European and White students felt it could, the Blacks, Africans and some of the Asians said it’s more than what’s come before it, it’s an ongoing synthesis that’s passed down culturally. You can’t know all the thinkings of a group of people by observing because as an outsider we observe from within the confines of our existing beliefs. Often, we’re so accustomed to our beliefs we’re not even aware of their influence. When it comes to dominant cultures who have had slaves, their descendants are greatly accustomed to being bent to so they are less aware of the amount of flexibility within those they have dominated historically. What I’m saying is that I can make all of these books look passably appropriate to the cultures of their origins, but they never will be. I’m always going to be thinking from my outsider view and hoping I can kind of fake it like some Jazz musicians.

Wikipedia tells me that there are approximately 4200 religions or spiritual traditions in the world today. I like that number since I’m working with 42 languages. Many of these are relatively quiet, but three of the Abrahamic faiths: Judaism, Christianity and Islam, represent the majority of the world’s population. I’m not commenting or interested in commenting on politics. My focus is on exploring differences in order to find how we are alike. One of the beliefs shared across the Abrahamic faiths is the practice or belief in Aniconism which is proscribed against idolatry. Idolatry is the worship of idols. For some this means that there is a proscription agains ANY kind of representational image, for others this proscription only forbids images of God. In the hadith (collection of traditions compiled from the sayings of the Prophet Mohammed), likenesses of ALL humans and animals are discouraged. As a result of this edict, Islamic cosmology, geometric patterns, and calligraphy are prevalent in art stemming from the Islamic World. When I was studying at Parsons, I began the lifelong process of learning the patterns with Keith Critchlow’s book, “Islamic Patterns: An Analytical and Cosmological Approach”. The Arabic Book of Shadows is an opportunity to work from the point of departure of: creating an illustrative anionic work in Arabic that brings together my aesthetic, light cuttings and rubbings to create something that might passably be acceptable in the Islamic World. Sultan Baybars Qur’an is the oldest extant Mamluk Sultana Qur’an. It’s the most expensive book produced in history.