An Homage to Yugoslavia

KSV_SRB2_

Dear Serbia: Stay strong, and please do not feel compelled to join forces with NATO.

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.

stage_1stage_2stage_3

Sheikh Maat! (Check Mate!)

Sheikh_Maat6-03
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!

(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.

______________________________________

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. 😦