Author: Mariam Imaginarium

I like languages, mountains, art, puzzles, and old, dusty books.

(from) Akkadian syllabary | (to) Hebrew symbolism — part II

As promised, our voyage into this subject is far from over! This post is a continuation of a previous post I wrote over the summer. Consider reading Part I before you proceed with my blatherings below.
BET-Sumerian|Semitic_01I recently found a credible resource that contains a cohesive list of Sumerian pictograms. It lists [figure 3a.] under E(scroll down to the letter ‘E’; “E2″ is the third entry). In this link, E2 is defined as ‘household’ (if you don’t feel like scrolling, searching, and clicking, you can find the definition directly [here]). Although both pages in the links I provided are found in The Electronic Text Corpus of Sumerian Literature (ETCSL), I am still relieved to see consistency in both pages, and the database it easy for me to understand.  I was beginning to doubt the pages of text by Budge, but the ETCSL confirms (to me) his rendition to be valid and gives me a more thorough insight that the sign is indeed closer to late Sumerian rather than Akkadian — scroll to E2.

What boggles me is, how do we vocalise E2? How is it even pronounced?!
Is it: “Eh, subscript 2”?, or: “EEEE!”?!.  I need a scholar of Sumerian literature to clarify this for me — I’m surprised that “e” means ‘house’ in Sumerian.

Ok, enough with Sumerian for now. Let’s move on to Akkadian!

BET-Sumerian|Semitic_02
In this page, one can find a rich resource of Akkadian (including both Babylonian and Assyrian phases of the language) scriptures and linguistics. Scroll down to segment 5.3 on Phonetic Complements, and we are fortunate to see that [figure 4] is used in an example, and is defined as ‘house’. We are even given more detail of the Sumerian variant which is pronounced as “e”, and not “bitum”. Furthermore, it lightly explains the evolution to the logogram (then, the phonogram) features of the later Akkadian (Old Babylonian), from the former pictographic elements of the same reference (i.e., ‘house’) in the older Sumero-Akkadian.  It’s confusing and gets more confusing as you read into it, but in the end, everything begins making sense.

Let us now see a third source: the Assyrian dictionary (also claims to be late Akkadian). The same sign and the same pronunciation for the reference ‘house’ is given.

There are numerous resources for learning Neo-Babylonian syllabary. Here is one by the University of Helsinki’s “Introduction to the Babylonian Language” course. The chart organises chunks of syllables that exist in the language, either by consonant + vowel or vowel + consonant. Find “bi” and “tu” on the chart, and you’ve got two syllables that together denote ‘house’, as demonstrated on [figure 5]. I often find that once I have learned a Neo-Babylonian word and its definition, I break it up into syllables (C+V or V+C), and I match it up to the chart. I write it down, and I check as many sources as possible to verify whether the written form I have is the correct written form of the word.

Now we can be certain of the signs I have illustrated in the second image. When I find more time, I will try to see the connection between figures 3a, 4, and 5. How did [figure 4] result in [5]? The “bi” syllable in [figure 5] looks like it could have been borrowed from the front end of the logogram for “bitum” in [figure 4] (yes, Cuneiform is written left to right!), but I am sure if we found another Old-Assyrian word that begins with “bi”, the logogram wouldn’t necessarily have the same front end (those double arrows).

For example, if an Assyrian scribe from 1500 BCE were to have separated the double arrows of the logogram “bitum” from the four standing wedges, the double arrows would not be read as “bi” — when the two forms separated, the logogram is meaningless. The phonogram writing method of the Neo-Babylonians is closer to most modern Western alphabets, regardless of script. It relies on combinations of sounds, which makes learning it easier, and more practical for newer words into a phonetic language to be introduced and have a written phonetic form.

Once I learn more about the evolution between Old-Assyrian logograms to Neo-Babylonian phonograms, and if there is a connection we can see, I will dedicate a few posts to that. I’ll try to make it an interesting read! Since I am now familiar with enough online/printed resources and these specific Cuneiform signs, I will soon have to flee this nest (*cough*house*cough*) of safety I’ve constructed, and onto more  challenging Cuneiform signs. Wish me luck.

The OttoMON-STER Upstairs II

ottomonster-upstairs_01 …
ottomonster-upstairs_02
The second to last frame marks the end of long-held antagonism between Kuli and Sarg. Kuli recognises Sarg as a fellow “roomie”, which is a step towards progress since it affirms that Sargon does indeed rightfully live within the bounds of Heidar’s apartment (i.e., Iraq/Mesopotamia).

Much like Iraq and Syria have seen a sharp increase of turmoil in the past several years, we must also acknowledge that the disagreements between ethnic groups and communities in these regions that seemed major at the time, are insignificant today. There are much larger threats—threats that may destroy us all. The roots of these major threats must first be vanquished before we can, once again, focus on solving our smaller issues/regional disputes. If we are strong, we will survive.
The time for us, humanity, to unite and fight against ISIS and its legions is urgent. URGENT.

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Important Notice: I will try to continue publishing 6 panels per week as a part of this never-ending narrative series. That said, this is just the beginning. I promise to show Temür’s good side in future episodes. He may seem like a true villain if you consider this my final piece, but believe me — there is more to be seen!

Happy (Hopefully) New Year!

"Festivus" was never observed in ancient Mesopotamia. This century, however…

“Festivus” was never observed in ancient Mesopotamia. This century, however…

Happy Holidays and New Year, everyone. It’s been a while. This year, let’s make this world a bit of a better place, amidst the escalating chaos, starting with making one stranger smile today! Well, folks…this weekend marks the moment where I leave my qualms of corporate retail behind me. At last, there shall be the spare time to publish my long overdue drafts, as I hunt for a job more relevant to my career aspirations. I hope to find it soon. As I search for a new job here in the Washington D.C. area, I’ll shake off the recurring fantasies of exploring Belgrade, Moscow, Teheran, or Tunis. How I miss the east!

I will return soon with actual content.

Kind Regards,
Mariam

“Sapari (Tema Temima)”

Sapari_refined

Later Draft: This is sloppier because I was using rusty old calligraphy nibs and dipping them in a variety of coloured inks (I tried, but failed, to do gradient swatches). The nibs caused abrasion on the surface of my sheet, so the inking was not applied evenly in certain areas! I used high-end inks and gold leaf, but the quality of my work isn’t quite better than my earlier draft with cheaper utensils (see below).

See the complete version (+ audio) of Sa’adiah ben Amram’s poem in the Piyyut database.

Long ago, I remember trying to get in touch with Yemenite musical heritage, during which an acquaintance mentioned Sa’adia ben Amram to me. Information was sparse on this 17th century poet from the highlands of northern Yemen (normally, I’d use Jstor for this type of search, but my student access expired…sorry, Google). It didn’t take much longer until I discovered that Orphaned Land, an Israeli progressive metal band that I hadn’t heard from since 2008, made a cover of one of Amram’s renown poems, “Sapari”. Amazing! The hybrid melodies between traditional Yemeni folk vocals intertwining with elements of metal was masterfully achieved (to my ears, at least)—I listened to the track several more times, and still didn’t know how to react!

I was captivated enough to find myself comparing the lyrics and the actual poem side-by-side, with the (limited) Hebrew I understood, whilst picking up new vocabulary in the process. To my excitement, I discovered that “Sapari” is often performed by many other Israeli musicians (whom weren’t all Mizrachi) in a variety of genres. The diversity and depth I find in many other Israeli songs, whether folk, reggae, or pop, Mizrahi, Ashkenazi, or Sefardi, makes it so much more intriguing to me than…than the bland khaliji pop music I was constantly exposed to in Dubai, where every khaliji hit seemed like an uninspired mimicry of the previous khaliji hit (but hey, you are free to enjoy Khaliji music if it’s your cup of shai!).

I am a 100% halal-certified beef frank; don’t let the opinion of one Yemeni girl offend you.

Sapari_sketch

Early Doodle: I did this on a train in a few minutes, using 1 simple calligraphy pen and gold Sharpie. Notice how much more refined the edges are (compared to above) and the even application of ink. In spite of the turbulence, I was more confident (perhaps because subconsciously, I knew it was just a draft). Just goes to show you, confidence and simplicity can sometimes make-up for lack of good-quality materials, even on a commute 😉

סַפְּרִי תַמָּה תְמִימָה
סַפְּרִי נָגִיל בְּתֵימָא
בַּת מְלָכִים הַחֲכָמָה
אָן מְקוֹמֵךְ סַפְּרִי לִי
עָנְתָה יוֹנָה סְעַדְיָה
לִי בְּפַלְטֵרִין עֲלִיָּה
וַאֲנִי תּוֹךְ לֵב אֳנִיָּה
בַּיְּפִי עוֹטָה מְעִילִי

Tell me, O innocent oneTell me, we will rejoice in innocence! Daughter of wise kings, where is your hiding place? Tell me. My dove answered: Sa’adya, I went up to the palaces. And I, though secretly I am poor, still I am robed in beauty.

If you are reading this post and can point me to credible references or exhibits regarding Sa’adia ben Amram or other Yemenite/Yemeni/Yemen-ish artists (contemporary or historic), please share! 😀 Preferably in English (or Arabic) since my Hebrew is weak. hehe.

“Samaya”

samaya
This illustration is directly inspired by a very enchanting performance by Sukhishvili (Georgian National Ballet), called “Samaiya”. You can read details on their English website over here, and definitely check out their other excellent performances! This is my 2nd draft — I plan to create final one on canvas with gouache using this exact colour scheme (and I’ll be meticulous with my gold leaf). Here, I used PrismaColor on Paris Paper, gold leaf, and imitation Swarovski.

Clearly, I’ve messed up on the blue gown. See how the stroke marks appear? I risked using a cheap brand blue ink there and realised that was a bad move. Later, I went over it with the same colour blue with PrismaColor, but it only made matters worse. 😦

Yemen.

Sanaa_Skyline_final1

I illustrated this 3-piece poster in the first week of April 2015, mainly to promote the diversity of Yemen. When the 3 pieces are combined, it creates the full 6″ by 15″ scene.

Sanaa_Skyline_final2
At that point in time, Yemen had faced two weeks of non-stop bombing and airstrikes from saudi arabia. It is now early September, and the bombing continues.

Sanaa_Skyline_final3

Here is my original caption:
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In recent weeks, Yemen has been in a state of anarchy, following decades of political instability and poverty since the 1962 revolution. For over 2 weeks now, Saudi Arabia has been launching deadly airstrikes over Yemen, killing over 100 civilians. The death toll of civilians and “rebels” will continue to rise until the saudi invasion ends…until saudi decides to give a damn about justice and Human rights.

#KefayaWar (“enough” war) is trending on social media by those protesting the violence of foreign intervention. It demonstrates the devastation faced by Yemenites who have lost their homes or family members by drones in the past several years, or in more recent airstrikes, whilst simultaneously sharing the beauty of this fertile mountain city (Sana’a), and the strength and resilience of the Yemeni civilians.

This piece venerates the diversity of Yemen, dating back to the Jewish presence that prevailed back in the Himyarite era. It is a nostalgic scene, but flickers hope for a brighter future in Yemen.
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7 months later, the bombing has intensified and will continue.
:’/
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EDIT (28/09/2015)
In the last scene, you will notice I included some, erm, calligraffiti on the building. From top to bottom, it reads shlama in the Eastern Syriac (Madankhaya) script, shalom in Modern Hebrew script, and salam in Arabic script. Given Sana’a’s geographic location and influences, it would’ve made MUCH more sense to include Sabaean script, or even Amharic or G’eez script, rather than East Syriac. Or maybe I could’ve used West Syriac, or even Nabatean, rather than East Syriac. Although, I am not yet familiar enough with Sabaean or Amharic, I will have to revise this last piece and upload again!

SIZE MATTERS

size_matters6_FINAL2

This is the first of my illustrated cultural narratives (comics) that I will share to the public. I’ve already illustrated a total of 33 characters whom each represent a certain country or region in the MENA (Middle East and North Africa). I will give more details on each character under the COMICS page. How exciting!

The idea of THIS comic popped into my head in February of 2015, when a few news articles lead me to think that the UAE may be competing with Turkey in humanitarian aid efforts toward Syrian refugees. Generally speaking, Turkey is not one to compete in the whole superficial “bigger is better” industry, like the UAE (Dubai) has in the past decade. However, Turkey has opened the absolute largest refugee colony for Syrian refugees late in January. Key word: largest. Around a week later, Dubai’s IHC donated an enormous sum (I cannot even verify the exact amount) toward Syrian aid. From the lens of financial capability, Dubai WIN$ this round. What else is new? From Burj Khalifah, to the ever-growing “shayla bump” trend, Dubai will always outdo you in materialistic size and quantity! The turban, or sak, that my Turkish character wears echoes back to the Ottoman Sultan, Suleiman I.

On a positive note, it is also a commonly held view (a generalisation) among khalijis that Emirati girls have higher academic performance than their male counterparts, and strive to be independent women by paving their own career paths. So, the size of the Emirati caricature’s shayla could be interpreted either as her hair growing (humidity of the UAE climate OR the massive size of the flower clip underneath the veil), or it could be interpreted as her intellect growing in size as she concentrates on how to get “bigger”…oh, and better.

DISCLAIMER: I hope none of my comics offend people too much. I am always interested in feedback on my work, so please do not hesitate to leave me a comment or message if you enjoy what you see, or even if you want me to revise a potentially hurtful message. As I publish more of my comics, you will see that I poke fun at every region and country in the MENA (including my own) equally, based on their own unique generalisations and relations toward one another!  We in the Middle East need to lighten up. 🙂