Tuesday, December 23, 2008


Disconnected Letters: Alef, Lam, Mim
(c) Francine Russelle, 2008
8" x 16", mixed media on slashed canvas
with Arabic calligraphy, using Golden Mean

Disconnected Letters: Saad
(c) Francine Russelle, 2008
10" x 10", mixed media on canvas with drywall mud
and Arabic calligraphy, using Golden Mean

I've had a fascination with Arabic calligraphy for decades, especially the so-called "disconnected letters" which appear before about a quarter of the surahs (verses) of the Holy Qur'an. They are never connected and are always pronounced individually. Fourteen of the 28 Arabic letters are used in this way. There is no "correct" reason for this; minds much finer than mine have attempted to explain them. They just are.

In Arabic each letter (consonant) has a numerical value. The system of reckoning or numerology is called Abjad (which are the first four letters of the alphabet (alef, bet, jim, dal.)) In Hebrew a similar system exists; it is called Gematria and is used extensively in Kabbalah.

But I rather like the idea that there is no reason that wo/man can understand for their being. I've seen these shapes in clouds, in flowers, in nature -- perhaps a kind of fractal. I dream them as I write them, read them, doodle them. But I can't explain them. They just are.

There is a Quwwali song recorded by the Sabri Brothers which says, in translation: And Gabriel told me at the Dawn of Creation, Trust not the Heart that is Slave to Reason. I think it applies in this case. They just are.

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