Tag Archives: science

The Birth of an Amulet

5 Mar

The animals sacrificed at the Muslim celebration of Eid-ul-Azha (based on the  Abrahamic tradition) will serve as our ride to heaven, post death. Thus went the explanation my parents gave to rest my discomforts at the slaughter of animals over Eid Festivities.

But what about when we are alive? After all, death is a distant possibility.

When we are alive or probably during our lifetime, we will quite possibly see science, particularly the field of biotechnology help produce the hybrid animals I imagined as a child: Winged goats, camels, cows (the wings enabled them to fly me to heaven).

Bear with me from here on, as most of this is imagined and yet to happen. Though it is the future. These will deserve our admiration simply for existing. In essence what we are actually admiring is the accomplishments of science. Pigs with soft meat, goats with wings. Pretty much the same thing. The potential of science, biotechnology in particular, is boundless; be it crop yield or unique hybrid species that offer the potential of replacing religion as a solution to human woes, indicating an era where human intervention/invention trumps nature. My practice currently references the fact that ideas that were mere fantasy a few years back may well become a reality in the near future.

My latest piece for Bahishti Cultures – a body of work that came into being as a tongue-in-cheek response to my research on (the unhindered deployment of) biotechnology to use and abuse nature and animals to satiate human consumption and insecurities – elevates the realm of biotechnology to the level of religion, creating deities out of hybrid animals. This new piece titled The Making of An Amulet follows a reductive approach. Much like Islamic amulets reduce all Quranic/non-Quranic verses on protection into a square piece of paper stuffed and sewn into a leather case to be worn around the neck – I have also managed to make the perfect Amulet derived from the accomplishments of biotechnology, that will in time replace religion and demand subservience.

Step 1.
It starts with the chimera – a goat with wings to fly, and claws to grab, and hooves to walk.  A Commendable Creation.
Step 1

Step 2.

Simplify it a bit. remove the goat head, keep the (added) features i.e wings, claws, hooves and tail.

IMG_0140 copy.jpgStep 3.
Simplify Further. Keep the best feature. Wear it around your neck. It will be your saviour.

Step 4.
Recognition. Is it even an amulet in contemporary muslim practice if not bound in leather to be worn around the neck?

IMG_0143 copy.jpg

The amulets started off as trinkets/jewellery to be worn around the neck for purposes of faith and belief in Science the Saviour. However, for now they have found a new home, resting in cork, flying in the sky.

step 1- low res


Cranial Concoction

26 Sep

I am glad to be free of the pressure and the stress related to being in school and completing a masters degree. Researching genetic engineering and the possibilities of adopting biotechnology for my work left me a bit drained. Craving a break and a lighter subject i decided to shift to miniature painting. Now, miniature painting is no joke but it is a great means of illustration and my plan is to illustrate a little something I refer to as a cranial concoction. Simply put, it’s a story.

My story begins where a myth ends; it continues on from where fact and fiction collide.

When I was little my parents used several techniques to teach us etiquette and train us for life. One way was through the act of storytelling.

Lesson no. 1
Don’t waste your food. Its a blessing from God.

In this vein, whenever there was a pomegranate in sight we were told a story based in religion. I am still not sure of its source or whether it was fiction – probably a myth – but it is widely believed that one unknown seed of the pomegranate is divine. Anyone who has that particular seed will go straight to heaven after death, skipping hell and punishment altogether. The Moral being that one should not waste their food (especially if its a pomegranate) and  eat all the juicy seeds.

Now back to the story.

*Scene – Dinner table, 8pm, when I was much younger*

Bearing in mind the divine nature of an unknown pomegranate seed, a man decides to leave civilisation and the hustle and bustle of city life behind for one afternoon to be able to eat his fruit (pom) in peace, far away from the distractions of daily life. His aim is to eat every seed so as to gain certainty of paradise upon death.
Sitting in a secluded area, he cuts open his fruit and starts deseeding it. Happily, he starts eating it. In the process, a single seed slips from between his fingers and rolls a short distance away. Before he can make a start to retrieve it, along comes a little hen and pecks away at the seed.

*Shocked silence*

*Hen clucking*

*The end*

There were always way too many conclusions at the end of this story in my head. Should he have shared? Greed is a bad thing. One must not look for shortcuts to go to heaven. And always, my final and most obvious conclusion was Now the hen will go to heaven. Or will it?

My next series of miniature paintings start where the story ends. The Hen pecks away at a seed, possibly a divine seed, unwittingly paving its way to paradise.

pecking away..

pecking away..