Dafatirs and muraqqa are albums where word and text are convened. Rooted in calligraphic and book arts, contemporary Arabic artists such as Dia al-Azzawi continue to explore the bounds of this medium.
In a culture where language and text are prized above all as a form of expression, the ties that bind literature and art remain strong. ‘Dafatirs’ is an Arabic word for notebook; this small, mobile yet intimate medium has become a place of experimentation and expression for contemporary Arab artists.
Iraqi modern artist Dia al-Azzawi, who studied fine arts in Baghdad before emigrating from the country due to regional instability, has contributed to bringing this form of contemporary Arabic art to a wider audience. In 2006 al-Azzawi contributed his private collection of Iraqi book arts from contemporary artists such as Nedim Kufi, Sadik Kwaish Alfraji, and Nazar Yahya to an exhibition at Carleton College, Dafatir: Contemporary Iraqi Book Art in the United States.
Book arts, or the dafatir, are hardly limited to Iraq. The rich history of illuminated manuscripts in Arab art is intertwined with the development of Arab literature, both past and present. For example, the muraqqa, most commonly associated with the Persian Safavid and Ottoman empires, are works in which text is accompanied by pictures imbued with vivid life by highly-skilled miniaturists. These collections of Islamic miniatures juxtaposed with the ornate text of stories and poems were given as diplomatic gifts or displayed in the atelier of kings and princes; the story of these illuminated texts and their artist-craftsmen form the backbone for Orhan Pamuk’s My Name Is Red.
For contemporary Arab artists, many of whom now live and work outside of their home countries, the concept of the book as a site of art-making is especially rich for interpretation. The book is a highly flexible medium designed both for portability and as a repository of information. Whilst large canvas paintings or sculptures can only be left behind, vulnerable to looting and destruction in times of instability, books can be carried from place to place. For these diasporic artists, they are a place for memories of their homelands. And for Western audiences that know little of the Middle East asides from the stereotypical images of desert sands and gun-toting men that stream through the television, mere blips in the long history of this region, these artworks draw attention to a deeply rooted tradition of calligraphic and manuscript art in Arabic culture.
A small exhibition on Syrian art at the British Museum (15 December 2011 to 9 January 2012) also gave a prominent place to artists’ books, including those by Shafiq Abboud, Mohammed Omar Khalil, Dia al-Azzawi, and Kamal Boullata. The books in the British Museum’s Syrian exhibition were all inspired by the poetry of Syrian modernist Adonis, who was nominated for the 2011 Nobel Prize in Literature. Adonis’ works, such as the poem ‘Qabr min ajl New York’ (A Grave for New York) published in 1971, play upon themes of exile and belonging, as well as engaging with critiques of the West. Through the book-arts, text and image become commentaries of each other, poetry mixes with art, quotidian found objects such as stones and rags are placed side-by-side with the artist-poet’s own words and thoughts.
Situated between printing, art, and handicraft, dafatirs or artists’ notebooks bring together ideas of fragmentation, transience, and homelessness. Their form functions like a portmanteau, as a space where disparate elements are collected together, and converse.
Volcanic Iceland Epic Trip
meet our Local Insider
HOW LONG HAVE YOU BEEN A GUIDE?
WHAT DO YOU LOVE ABOUT YOUR JOB?
It's the personal contact, the personal experiences. I love meeting people from all over the world... I really like getting to know everyone and feeling like I'm traveling with a group of friends.
WHAT DESTINATION IS ON YOUR TRAVEL BUCKET-LIST?
I have so many places on my list, but I would really lobe to go to Africa. I consider myself an “adventure girl” and Africa feels like the ULTIMATE adventure!
Every CULTURE TRIP Small-group adventure is led by a Local Insider just like Hanna.
KEEN TO EXPLORE THE WORLD?
Connect with like-minded people on our premium trips curated by local insiders and with care for the world
Since you are here, we would like to share our vision for the future of travel - and the direction Culture Trip is moving in.
Culture Trip launched in 2011 with a simple yet passionate mission: to inspire people to go beyond their boundaries and experience what makes a place, its people and its culture special and meaningful — and this is still in our DNA today. We are proud that, for more than a decade, millions like you have trusted our award-winning recommendations by people who deeply understand what makes certain places and communities so special.
Increasingly we believe the world needs more meaningful, real-life connections between curious travellers keen to explore the world in a more responsible way. That is why we have intensively curated a collection of premium small-group trips as an invitation to meet and connect with new, like-minded people for once-in-a-lifetime experiences in three categories: Culture Trips, Rail Trips and Private Trips. Our Trips are suitable for both solo travelers, couples and friends who want to explore the world together.
Culture Trips are deeply immersive 5 to 16 days itineraries, that combine authentic local experiences, exciting activities and 4-5* accommodation to look forward to at the end of each day. Our Rail Trips are our most planet-friendly itineraries that invite you to take the scenic route, relax whilst getting under the skin of a destination. Our Private Trips are fully tailored itineraries, curated by our Travel Experts specifically for you, your friends or your family.
We know that many of you worry about the environmental impact of travel and are looking for ways of expanding horizons in ways that do minimal harm - and may even bring benefits. We are committed to go as far as possible in curating our trips with care for the planet. That is why all of our trips are flightless in destination, fully carbon offset - and we have ambitious plans to be net zero in the very near future.