Islam Aly


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"Inception is inspired by stories and journeys of the refugees. It is a bilingual codex in English and Arabic. The book is based on the twelfth-century Persian verse poem 'The Conference of the Birds' written by Farid Aldin Al-Attar. The poem is about the search for truth and integrity, which is parallel to the refugee’s quest to re-discover themselves. Birds meet to begin searching for their perfect king. But to find him, they need to start a difficult journey. The birds show their doubts and fears to their lead, the hoopoe. He encouraged and supported the birds to be confident, grateful, and honest. The birds start a wondrous journey that only 30 of them completes, they eventually recognize that their king is each of them and all of them. The English text is adapted from Afkham Darbandi translation. The Arabic text is adapted from Badee Mohamed Gomaa Arabic translation 'Manteq Al Tayr.' The bird images represented are from medieval Islamic artwork. Arabic Calligraphy is done by Abdul Karim and Sabri. Inception was made as part of Swarthmore College’s Friends, Peace, and Sanctuary project. Major support for Friends, Peace, and Sanctuary has been provided by The Pew Center for Arts & Heritage with additional support from Swarthmore College Libraries, the Lang Center for Civic and Social Responsibility, the William J. Cooper Foundation, and the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation." - Islam Aly


Islam Aly (self-published)


Religion, refugees, bilingual, Arabic


4.5" diameter x 3.5"; 2" diameter x 0.75" miniature accordion books


Coptic binding


Laser-cut Fabriano and tracing paper, plexiglass mirror, laser-engraved wooden boards


Leather wrappings connected to seven small books



Other Information

Edition of 30. Signed, numbered, and dated by the artist. More information can be found here:

Exhibit Location

This work was featured in the Cornell Fine Arts Museum as a part of the exhibition “Common Ground: Selected Works from The Rollins Book Arts Collection” from September 18, 2021 – December 31, 2021.