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Archive for March, 2014

Week 7: Response to Beggar’s Strike

Posted in Uncategorized on March 23rd, 2014

I thought the idea of poverty and zakat was incredibly interesting. We discussed this in depth through the discussion reading “Beggar’s Strike” by Aminata Snow Fall. Though in some ways the writing itself was predictable I felt like it entered and interesting discussion of poverty and how one should handle it. I think a lot of how zakat is dealt with and the attitude surrounding poverty is determined by culture. In the context of this story set in Senegal, begging was almost like a business. According to the beggars they were needed to pray for those who give money to them. In fear of hurting the tourism industry people wanted the beggars separated from what was presented to the outsiders, becoming a point of conflict.

I just thought the whole idea behind zakat in this situation was incredibly interesting. The zakat is not really a means of helping others as it is to help oneself and to alleviate oneself of some sin almost. Growing up I looked at zakat more as a systematic way of helping the poor. I felt like all people possessed a degree of selflessness and desire to help the poor and this gave people the necessary structure to act on this intrinsic quality.

The idea of the poor praying for you when you give them money is not limited to just Senegal. Whenever I go home to Bangladesh beggars line the streets of Dhaka. They poke at your door and upon receiving money will recite a quick prayer or make a motion showing that they have prayed for you or intend on doing so. This in some ways parallels the situation in Fall’s writing. Interestingly enough many beggars are actually part of a larger operation run by gangs and do not get to keep all the money themselves. Slumdog Millionaire did a good job showing that element of begging on screen. When I visited the Istiqlal Mosque in Jakarta, a group of young kids kept following my family around begging for money. They were definitely using religion to convince us to give them money. They followed us from the mosque to the parking lot and we gave them money because of their perseverance. As soon as we gave them the money though the older kids just began counting the money.


The kids we saw at the Istiqlal Mosque in Jakarta. You can see the girl on the right counting the money, while the younger ones enjoy being photographed.

For my artistic response to this week’s reading I decided to show the hands of someone giving money to a beggar. The idea is that someone incredibly wealthy, who has every ability to donate money, chooses to only donate a little because they do not feel true moral obligation to help. Rather it is a way of checking off the boxes and being able to say I gave zakat. I thought this in some way reflected what we read about in the short story. I drew the hands in ink and used acrylic paints to create the metallic rings and coin.


Artistic response

Week 6: Response to Islamic Art and Architecture in Mosques

Posted in Uncategorized on March 23rd, 2014

This week’s response is not specific to one reading but rather all of the readings and discussions we had in class. We viewed many different types of Islamic architecture when it came to designing mosques. During section we debated about the nature of Islamic Art. The conclusion I personally reached is that the architecture is very much a product of the culture, location, time period, and interactions with other cultures. Though regional differences may exist in how a mosque is built or differences in Islamic architecture as a whole, i found that there are some commonalities between different buildings. One that I found in many different forms of Islamic architecture is the arch and spaces that have high ceilings. From my experiences in visiting places of worship I found a lot of them had very high ceilings and architecture that makes the space appear for large even if not in the amount of square footage. When I saw mosques in Egypt I noticed this pattern, alongside the Notre Dame, and a Confucius place of worship. I partly believe this is done for the echoing noises that create a sense of greatness.

For my artwork I decided to create an arch with a lamp. This is in part inspired by the designs and patterns I’ve seen in a lot of prayer rugs in which there is an arch and some type of lamp hanging from the arch. It is also inspired by some Mughal architecture found in Agra. The light might tie into the idea of the “nur” that Muhammad was endowed with. It might also be the guiding light. I decided it would be something I wanted to include in the artwork. I used acrylic paints and a flat canvas panel for this piece. The hope was to depict what looking out of an arch in the setting sun would look like. We would only be able to see a silhouette of that portion of the building and the light. In retrospect I wish I had used both acrylic and oil paints to create this piece because I am not as familiar with acrylic paint and how to create colors with it. I wish I had done the background in both acrylic and oil paints because this would have enabled me to create a gradient of colors that would be associated with the setting sun aside from just a orange-pink color.



Week 4: Response to “Myths and Legends of the Swahili”

Posted in Uncategorized on March 23rd, 2014

In the reading titled “Myths and Legends of the Swahili,” the Prophet describes  his ascent to heaven, the Isra and Mi’raj. In between descriptions of the layers of heaven, the reading also painted images of hell. Descriptions of hell included “Fire was flaming in their intestines, their hearts were smouldering, and sparks flew out of their mouths” (Knappert 77). I found it incredibly interesting that the idea of punishment was so crucial to express to readers that Muhammad (PBUH) was shown the fires during his trip to God and the heavens. It made me wonder whether God was to be fear, or if punishment is depicted independent of God himself, or if it was a combination of both.

During our discussion section, this portion of the text was heavily discussed. For many, including myself, it was incredibly disturbing. Growing up whenever I heard of  hell, the first image that appeared in my mind was fire. The concept of hell fire was something emphasized by my Sunday school teacher and my mother. My mother described to me how the hell fire would stick to your flesh as you attempted to make up missed prayers in hell, how the fire would create a pain much worse than a burn on Earth. Though this description was terrifying, it pales in comparison to Swahili depiction of hell. In the hell described in this writing, the women who were unchaste or cheated on their husbands were actively hurting themselves. Opening themselves up, ripping out their intestines, in addition to feeling the burn of the fire itself. 

For my artistic response to this piece I decided to portray the common denominator in many different depictions of hell — punishment for sins with fire. I have a sheet of paper with haram written on it that is burning in fire. The idea is that any action that is haram or a sin is to be punished in the fires of hell. I decided against using actual phrases in the Qu’ran that are forbidding actions because I did not want the piece to appear to be burning the Qu’ran and be offensive. I used oil paint paper which was strong and would not warp. I ripped the edges to make it look like aged paper and then stained it with teabags to add to the aged effect. I painted the fire and the portions of paper that are almost in an “ash” like state with oil paint and used linseed oil for the medium. I had a lot of difficulty transporting the piece as linseed oil does not dry very quickly and this caused for some of the paint to smudge. If I were to do this over again I would consider using Liquin as a medium as it supposedly dries quickly.