Stages of Ascent

Exhibition of embroidered calligraphy by Farah Behbehani

19 Jan 2014
12 Feb 2014

“Letters are a nation of nations,” Muhyiddin Ibn Arabi (1165 AD-1240 AD)

‘Stages of Ascent’ is a visual journey that explores the 28 letters of the Arabic alphabet.

Stages-of-Ascent-460x280 - Farah Behbehani

Beginning with the primary letter ‘Alif’, and ending with ‘Ya’, this series introduces the playful possibilities that letters can create, a ceaseless flow of stories. Alif, a symbol of the absolute oneness of God (Allah), is also a representation of self; I (ana), Where ‘Ya’ the last letter in the alphabetis a common prefix used by Arabs to address each other “ Ya Muhammad”.

Drawn and reinterpreted from their primary form, this series of letters presents a diversity of visual expressions through the intricate sewing of threads and beads. The embroidery accentuates the movement and dynamic nature of the letters, giving a glimpse of their endless possibilities and splendour. The harmony of lines and curves form a dimension of play.

A sequence of words linked by the primary letter they represent lies alongside the illustrations. Taking the viewer through an unsystematic journal of thought, the words symbolize the interpretation of language hidden between the alphabetical letters. The final letter Ya’ represents everything other than self. It is the only letter than can be written backwards, taking us to Alif, the beginning of another journey. As poetic mystical belief maintains, ‘Ya’ is the opposite of ‘Alif’, and hence, the whole world rests between them.