Salam and Shalom.
Sana’a: The Capital City of Yemen.
In this post, I introduce my first art piece of 2018, in which I combine lettering and illustration. The concept of the lettering was to have Sana’a written in four different scripts: Sabaean, Arabic, Hebrew, and Syriac. Those languages fall into the Semitic branch of languages, have similar origins, as well as some shared vocabulary, yet each claims its own alphabetical system. The concept of the illustration was to have the multi-lingual lettering mimic the appearance of Sana’a’s iconic cityscape. My goal for this piece is for it to convey the history of the diverse communities that inhabited Yemen throughout the centuries, and contributed to its heritage.
But First, Etymology!
The word “Sana’a” is derived from the Arabic root (Ṣ – N – ‘), made up of the letters, Tsade (*), Nun, and Ayin. Perhaps the city earned its name from the Arabic verb, صنع , (Ṣuna’), which means: to make or to manufacture (also: to construct, to produce, and to build).
Sana’a is more than the capital city of Yemen — it is the ancient capital city of Yemen, said to have been founded and settled by Noah’s eldest son, Shem.
Sana’a is more than the ancient capital city of Yemen — it is one that had been built, or maṣnou’ (**), from the rocks on the surface and up toward the sky. One that had been maṣnou’ from the very stones of its lush highlands, where the architecture could easily camouflage with its rocky environment, if it were not for the eye-catching stained glass windows that adorn every structure.
Sana’a is more than just an ancient capital city with structures rising up from the mountains — it is one that is being rocked with instability caused by external aggressions and internal devastations, yet still full of resilient city folk who carry on with their lives in spite of all their burdens.
. . . and still, Sana’a is more than all that. Come to Sana’a; see and listen for yourself. As you approach it, see it mystically rise up from Yemen’s highlands. Once within it, listen carefully to the echoes of varied languages bounce off the ancient walls of the city. Watch carefully for graffiti in a variety of scripts, belonging to those languages.
Sana’a was home to several languages and scripts that were spoken and written throughout the ages. Each of these languages have left their marks and diacritics over the southern regions of the Near East, which Yemen owes it’s rich heritage to.
– “Sana’a” in Four Semitic Scripts –
The trained eye will notice that the top portion of this Art piece does not only consist of minarets and arches, but spells out “Sana’a” in the Sabaean script (Ancient South Arabian), which is read from right-to-left. Pay attention and you will see the letterforms. It is thought that Ge’ez, spoken just across the Red Sea in Abyssinia, came from Sabaean.
Just beneath the Sabaean script, I illustrated “Sana’a” in Arabic as صنعاء . Now this makes sense, as Arabic is Yemen’s official language today, and has been for some time. Under the Arabic, you will see צַנְעַאא in Hebrew. During the Himyarite Era of Yemen, which reigned after the Sabaean Era and spanned 630 years, Hebrew was the spoken language throughout the western parts of Yemen.
Finally, at the bottom, ܨܢܥܐܐ in Syriac. If Classical Syriac ever made it down to Yemen, it would have had to travel from the north-east to the south-west. It is likely though, that Syriac may have had its debut in the nearby Yemen, since Syriac inscriptions have been found as far as the Far East. I do know that throughout the centuries, before Islam was introduced to the region, some of the dialects of Akkadian, Assyrian, and Aramaic have been used in south-western Arabia.
I encourage you all to search for more Art pieces that unify Semitic languages. Sabaean, Arabic, Hebrew, and Syriac: together, these languages (well . . . those who spoke them) built, or ṣuna’ou (***), Yemen’s heritage and its history.
* The Ṣ sound in Sana’a is pronounced: “Ts”.
** maṣnou’ — (passive participle, past tense) “has been built from”.
*** ṣuna’ou — (verb, plural, past tense) “they built”.
Materials Used: Prisma, Paris Paper, Gold Leaf, and fake Swarovski crystals.
Message from the Artist:
Yemen nowadays rarely makes headlines in the mainstream media, unless it involves protests or Yemen’s use of Qat. In the non-mainstream media, we see that Yemen makes more sombre headlines (but then again, at least it’s coverage): another airstrike, mass starvation, and the cholera epidemic. Little does today’s world know of Yemen’s positive characteristics — the brilliant and picturesque architecture; the vibrant poetic culture that gave way to Yemen’s underground art and music scene; the highly sought-after coffee, incense, and silver jewelry that Yemen, since ancient times, exported to other areas of the Near East. . . and beyond.
In this post, I shared some of Yemen’s cultural diversity. In any future posts that concern Yemen, I strive to give the world a taste of the many splendours found in Arabia Felix.
I have updated my Epic of Gilgamesh page with more recent sketches. However, if you find my sketches to be lacking in colour and excitement, you might consider checking out the newest addition to my portfolio; Persephone and Zephyrus will redirect you to the appropriate page!
Persephone and Zephyrus
I created this advocacy poster to honour Serbian Statehood Day, which occurred on February 15th and 16th. Actually, what triggered me to start sketching was last week’s tragedy in Libya, which involved two Serbian embassy employees whom were abducted by ISIL last Fall, and then killed in a U.S. air strike. Since I have no knowledge of Serbian, I wrote in Russian Cyrillic: “Kosovo aeta Serbija”, or Kosovo is Serbia. I adapted the “И” (pronounced “i”) to represent an Orthodox cross.
This illustraion goes to show the world that not all Muslims (or people raised as Muslim) support Kosovo as a sovereign nation or Albanian-owned territory. Many of us are in favour of the historic Slavic Kosovo. However, the resolution to this conflict is not as simple as declaring which ethnic group has more of the historic right to the modern-day Kosovar boundaries. It is disputed whether or not Albanians are descendants of the Dardani tribe that called parts of Kosovo their home. It is known that Serbians called the area their homeland from the early Middle Ages. Later, when the Ottoman Empire ruled over the Balkans for almost 500 years, Albanians saw an increase of privileged status. The Soviet Union rule over the Balkans in the 20th century then gave the Slavic folk short-lived unification.
Then, along came the USA into this already hot mess of fallen empires and frustrated ethnic tensions . . . Perhaps due to all the ethnic migrations, foreign interference, internal gangs, underground movements, and crimes, the political border that marks the entire territory of Kosovo needs to be revised for the modern-day. Is there any other way?
Could Albanian and Serbian parties agree on new borders based not off of their own demands, but off of the majority views of the many towns that lie within it? The two population groups are clearly not appeased with the current boundaries. Could there even be a compromise where Serbia and Albania have an equal share and rule over Kosovo, instead of having foreign countries intervene by clustering the Serbians in the extreme north of the Kosovo territory? Will both sides come to a satisfactory resolution soon? I would love to see that. Anyhow, I find this topic very interesting, and will continue to learn more about it.
You may view the process of my work below. In the next week or so (depending on how I manage my spare time), I will try to produce artwork for even more mountain folk — ABYSSINIA! After that, I will refocus on Mesopotamia, Gilgamesh, and Cuneiform.
This episode ties directly to my previous one (The OttoMON-STER Upstairs), and shows events that happen in Yitzhak and Daliah’s apartment that are simultaneous to the events in Heidar’s apartment.
Here we are introduced to three new characters—Itzhak the Israelite, Daliah the Palestinian, and the third being Kurosh (Cyrus) the Persian. My personal views on the conflict are very neutral, but if you think my representation of Yitzhak or Daliah are lopsided, let me know and I might revise. Although it’s no secret that Israel does not have the best relations with Palestine or Iran, I did try to make an episode featuring all three in one room as humorous as humanely possible, without sacrificing true events in our world. In the next week or two, I will show Yitzhak in more fortunate conditions…and don’t worry—all his files are safe!
In the first panel, we learn that overdosing on arak is the worst way to treat food poisoning. Heidar is not in good shape right now, but he will recover, as he always does (Iraq has been through many foreign invasions). Daliah’s medicinal olive oil will surely speed up the recovery process! At the opening, I decided to include a brief interaction between Daliah and Arevik (on the phone), to show good vibes between Palestinians and Armenians. Right when Yitzhak’s computer goes berserk, Daliah escapes through the window. Though she did interrupt his internet, Daliah isn’t the true mastermind behind Yitzhak’s tech trouble! That’s right—it’s Kurosh! And he challenges Yitzhak to a friendly Israel vs. Iran Chess battle.
In the final panel, we see the gleam in Kurosh’s eyes that hints to us that he enjoys trolling Yitzhak. The two love a good game of Chess, and together, they go WAY back (and I’ve already dedicated a special Purim episode starring just the two of them, which will be shared in a few weeks). Temür will make another appearance in the next episode or two.
In the next several episodes, we will begin to see how one character interacts with the other, and what kind of relationship they have with one another. It is bound to get more complicated as I go on with this series! The computer I am using is almost as old as Yitzhak’s (my daily struggle with technology emanates in the 5th panel). Once I can afford a new computer and modern software, I will update much more regularly.
In the meantime, if any of you readers have suggestions, comments, or threats for me, please do not hesitate to reach out to me here or via email. All feedback is appreciated!
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. 😦
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.
Here is my original caption:
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.
7 months later, the bombing has intensified and will continue.
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!