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Creative Exploration

Islam Through Art

The Seven Valleys

Filed under: Uncategorized — sgee at 11:35 am on Monday, May 2, 2016


I really enjoyed reading The Conference of the Birds. In addition, the art piece I had seen on our fieldtrip to the MET in NYC about The Conference of the Birds prompted me to create an art piece about it. The Conference of the Birds is an expression of Sufi piety in the form of a mathnawi, a narrative epic. It is an epic poem composed of rhyming couplets, telling the story of the journey of the birds to find their king. They are led on this journey by the hoopoe bird across the seven valleys of yearning, love, knowledge, detachment, unity, bewilderment, and poverty/nothingness to learn that the king they were looking for were themselves. Thousands of birds has set off on this journey, but only 30 birds made it. The journey was representative of a physical and spiritual journey each person has to make to understand the true nature of God. Each bird had begun with vices that prevented them from being with God, and these vices also exist in humans.

This epic poem was also used to reflect the belief that God is the beloved, God is the totality of existence, and that God is discoverable within each person. In my art work, I depicted this journey to find the beloved as a layered heart with the light at the middle. Each layer of the heart depicts a different scene from a different valley. The first task is to yearn for God and the journey, which I depicted as a bird flying toward the heart. The next layer is love, which is depicted by the fire that is above reason. The second valley is depicted by many different paths that individuals must embark to get to God. “Here every pilgrim takes a different way, And different spirits different rules obey.” The third valley is depicted with clouds in the sky because everything is contradictory and painful with love, but you can look up, forget everything and feel happy by loving God. In the valley of Unity, you discover that everything that God created is “locked in singularity,” and everything in nature has an essence of God. Next layer in is the Valley of Bewilderment, where you’re blindly following your love for God, uncertain of the present state of things. The last layer is the Valley of Poverty and Nothingness, and though you have nothing, you are able to reach the light that is shed by God. The different layers of the heart is the self-journey to discover God at the center of your universe.



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