Mirrors of Babel

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Mirrors of Babel is a multi-part installation that proposes an inversion of the Biblical story that explain why the world’s peoples speak different languages. According to the story, a united humanity in the generations following the Great Flood, speaking a single language and migrating eastward, agreed to build a city and a tower tall enough to reach heaven. God, observing their city and tower, confounds their speech so that they can no longer understand each other, and scatters them around the world.

The very act of rebuilding the Tower of Babel from language (or lettering) is a symbolic move, underlining a key part of my practice: that the Arabic language can unite us through its aesthetic beauty. It is also a tribute to the pluralist community of the Toronto. The city itself has one of the most diverse populations in the world and rather than be divided by their native tongues, its people are united by the common language. The artwork, made of mirrors that reflect the images of those who see it, is a visual testament to this unity, which inspired me to investigate the original myth.

The content of the calligraphic architecture is based on the Arabic translation of “Prairie Greyhounds” (1903), a two-part poem by the canonical 19th century Mohawk poet, writer and performance artist E. Pauline Johnson, Tekahionwake. The poem was an ode to a new country, describing a westward journey to the “Land to Be” in the first half, shaping the structure at Yonge-Dundas, and a return journey home to the east in the second half, framing the work in Scarborough.