Friday, May 07, 2010


Passages from Beowulf translated into Arabic and hand-cut from Japanese Washi, then waxed, sewn and mounted onto the seedpods of the African Tulip Tree, Spathodea Campanulata.

Boat #1

I will not carry
My noble sword
Into battle, but fight
With my bare hands,
Fiercely and fearlessly,
Fully prepared
To win or lose;
For one of us
Must die, submitting
To the doom of God

Boat #2

Men who inhabit
This weary war-ravaged
World experience
Many good things -
And much evil

Boat #3

Intrepid warriors
Drank wine;
Not one of them guessed
What fate had in store,
The fearful doom

Why...? I thought you'd ask. The seedpods remind me of both Viking longboats and Arabian dhows and, as you know, I have a fascination with punishing my fingers by cutting out text with a scalpel. Beowulf is a nordic saga whose exploration of fear, courage and battle seem relevant to me now as westernised countries face a hidden enemy that is often blankly categorised and demonised as Arab as well as other, and yet I suspect the fear is just as great in the face of death on the other side as our own. I'm not making a strong political statement - more like pointing at something and then running away from the issue in case I make an idiot of myself. The piece is also about the beauty of language and script, particularly Arabic script with its flowing form and intriguing shapes. It was interesting cutting words in a language I don't understand and cannot read, a metaphor in itself perhaps.


dinahmow said...

I could come out with the tired and overused (on the interwebs) WOW! and perhaps OMG.

But this is more than trite, Sara. And a theme explored by many, over the years.

If this is part of your current show I hope (might even bet!) you get red spots.

Jan Allsopp said...

Absolutely exquisite Sara!

Carol said...

So very beautiful, Sara. Now I can see why you were doing that intricate cutting. These are real treasures.

Printed Material said...

These are just wonderful.I am in awe of not only the idea but also the execution. Just fabulous.

Ida said...

well done! they are absolutely beautiful. i love the boat as a form and these are wonderful examples of how powerful it can be.

Fiona said...

Beowulf in Arabic...??? Whatever next?!

But I like the idea.

Amanda said...

Yes, these are very beautiful. I can only assume that somewhere out there exists an Arabic translation of Beowulf? Afterall, it is a classic. I'm presuming you didn't use Babelfish???

SCB said...

Actually, I have to confess to using so I don't know whether there is a genuine Arabic translation of Beowulf, although that possibility did raise questions in my mind! Howeverm please be assured that I did to- and fro- between English to Arabic and Arabic to English to try and get the sense of the words right... I daresay an Arabic speaker could poke holes in the translation but sadly I didn't have access to a native speaker to help me.

ronnie said...

it seems a bit simplistic of me to just add 'wow' but that's what i'm mostly left with

wow sara - just stunning

I'm as intrigued by the process as by the the result

ps I'd love to share this with some of my calligraphic friends via our group calligraphy blog:
or maybe with the cyberscribes group:

what do you think?

Valerianna said...

I'm rooting around the web and came across these amazing boats, really, quite stunning! Thank you for good inspiration and hello from a misty forest in the U.S.....


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