By Islam Aly
Cairo, Egypt: Islam Aly, 2022. Edition of 50 + 5 proofs
Box size: 14.5 x 5 x 2.5” closed, 14.5 x 10 x 2.5” opened. Book size: 9 x 4.5”. Cloth-covered box. Leather wrapping connected to brass cut pieces. Materials: Silk-screened book cloth, inkjet printed text, handmade paper, linen thread, book board, museum board, laser-cut Canson paper, and five brass boats in a compartment. Coptic binding. Signed, numbered, and dated by the artist.
Islam Aly: "'Mare Nostrum" is a bilingual book in English and Arabic that highlights the Mediterranean Immigration Crisis. People from Sub-Saharan Africa, the middle and far East come to North Africa to cross the Mediterranean using primitive boats and with the help of traffickers of immigrants. According to the missing migrant project, more than 23600 missing migrants have been recorded in the Mediterranean since 2014.
“’Mare Nostrum’ is a box with two compartments. On the left is a book with images of boats and quotes from migrants who survived the journey of crossing the Mediterranean, reflecting on their experiences. Nine quotes were taken from interviews and video clips where they discussed their experience.
“Images of the boats are derived from drawings of boats on pottery from predynastic Egypt. In ancient Egypt, boats were used for ceremonial purposes. Most importantly, taking the kings’ bodies from one side of the Nile to another, moving from their temporary life, and death to their afterlife and eternity. This is parallel to the immigrant's journey, moving from poverty and conflict to freedom and stability.
“The colors selected for the sections reflect the Mediterranean sea and the journey of the migrants alternating from light to dark blue and back to light as the journey progresses.
“The book allows the viewers to interact with the immigrant's journey. Five small circles are laser cut on each section. The brass boat bases fit into the circles allowing the viewer to move the boats within the page space, echoing the immigrants moving process in multiple combinations.
"’Mare Nostrum’, in Latin meaning ‘Our Sea,’ was the Roman name for the Mediterranean Sea. The Italian government also used ‘Mare Nostrum for the military and humanitarian operations to rescue the migrants and arrest the traffickers. Special thanks to my son, Mahmoud Islam, for suggesting the Latin Name.
“The book ends with a proverb that emphasizes immigrants' necessity to aspire toward a new life.”
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