THE BIG FAMILY TREE, 2018 (work in progress)



This is on-going research into the roots of the Arabic language.

The point of departure is a tape recording that my father left. 

At a time when there was a scarcity of documentation, the microphone, and the cassette player played a crucial rule in preserving an image of my early childhood.

In the recording, I learn to recite the Koran, at an early age of 3. The content is mostly short verses from the koran that I learnt to recite by heart.

Though completely ignorant about their meaning, the recitation is impressive for such complex text.


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Excerpt from the tape


Transcription 3 4

Part of the transcription and translation of the content of the tape



parchmentTHE REMAINS OF MY ORAL TRADITION: Image of a folio from Sana'a palimpsest. The oldest manuscript found of the Koran. Written in Hijazi script, which is known to the north of Arabia, what is now Palestine and Jordan. The image is transfered to a polyurethane resin sculpture, arguably the print, as well as the sculpture, can last forever with only minor deterioration.


That was not a part of any sort of religious study; it is rather how the Arabic language is so entangled with the koran in a way that makes it impossible to separate the two.

A language, which has been arguably orally spoken for more than a thousand years, found letters for the first time in history to transform itself to a written language.

And this happened in the manuscripts of the koran. The koran itself, according to the Islamic story, was being recited, before it was fixed into letters and printed on parchments






Though, this research is not tape recording nostalgia, however tempting.

The tape is only a vehicle think about the lineage and roots of Arabic language and the culture in a broader sense;

an oral tradition that found the mean for preservation.

And just as the medium of the tape recording cannot withstand time elements without deterioration,

the printed text at that early age could not stand time either without occurring considerable damage.

And in this case, damage only means damage in the meaning of the verses, or what is lost in translation.







The conception of Islam as an alien body that emerged all of a sudden out of a historical void

has always held back any serious attempt in reconstructing a proper image of the early stages of Islam.


Tracing the history of appropriation and circulation of religious symbols and images in pre-Islamic Arabia

offers a different historical narrative than the alien body's one; a rather melting pot one.


Such as the symbols in this image, all religious symbols were appropriated in the very early Islamic coins,

before they rebelled against the image, replacing everything with words.



The deeper the roots, the more plural they get.

The traces of the pre-Islamic Arabian gods in the Koran are prominent. A few artefacts scattered around world museums give us an idea about how they looked like and what symbols did they carry.