Islam Aly – Inception, Bedaya


© 2019
edition of 30
dimensions in inches: 4.5 x 3.5 ; 2 x .75

About this piece:

Inception is inspired by stories and journeys of the refugees. It is a bilingual codex in English and Arabic. The book is based on the twelfth-century Persian verse poem “The Conference of the Birds” written by Farid Aldin Al-Attar. The poem is about the search for truth and integrity, which is parallel to the refugee’s quest to re-discover themselves.

Birds meet to begin searching for their perfect king. But to find him, they need to start a difficult journey. The birds show their doubts and fears to their lead, the hoopoe. He encouraged and supported the birds to be confident, grateful, and honest. The birds start a wondrous journey that only 30 of them completes, they eventually recognize that their king is each of them and all of them.

The English text is adapted from Afkham Darbandi translation. The Arabic text is adapted from Badee Mohamed Gomaa Arabic translation “Manteq Al Tayr”. The bird images represented are from medieval Islamic artwork. Arabic Calligraphy is done by Abdul Karim and Sabri.

Inception was made as part of Swarthmore College’s Friends, Peace, and Sanctuary project. Major support for Friends, Peace, and Sanctuary has been provided by The Pew Center for Arts & Heritage with additional support from Swarthmore College Libraries, the Lang Center for Civic and Social Responsibility, the William J. Cooper Foundation, and the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation.


paper, plexiglass, wood, leather, thread

About the artist:

Lives and works in Cairo, Egypt

Islam Aly is an artist, teacher, and researcher. At Helwan University, Egypt he received a BA and an MA in Art Education; afterward, he graduated from the University of Iowa, with an MFA in Book Arts and a Ph.D. in Teaching and Learning with a concentration in Art Education. His books explore the possibilities of historical bindings in contemporary book art practice. He has combined book traditions with digital technologies. His work is created at the junction between culture, technology, and aesthetics.


Islam Aly – Inception, Bedaya