Death, the great equaliser: Christianity on the Middle Nile

Originally posted on British Museum blog:

Julie Anderson, Assistant Keeper (curator), British Museum

A herd of Sudanese camels (photograph

A herd of Sudanese camels (photograph J. Anderson)

People are often surprised to discover that two of the largest Christian kingdoms in the medieval world were in Sudan in northeast Africa. Ibn Selim Al-Aswani, an Arab traveller, visited Sudan in the 10th century AD and described the region north of Old Dongola, capital of the medieval kingdom of Makuria, situated roughly 750 kilometres upstream of Aswan Egypt, as an area of ‘about thirty villages, with beautiful buildings, churches and monasteries, many palm-trees, vines, gardens, cultivated fields and broad pastures on which one can see camels’.

Further to the south, Soba East, capital of the medieval kingdom of Alwa, located near modern-day Khartoum, was said to have ‘fine buildings and large monasteries, churches rich with gold and gardens’. This conjures up quite a romantic picture of medieval Sudan and provides us with an insight…

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Irini Gonou and magical writing.

Originally posted on art for housewives :

It’s been awhile since I’ve blog due to my daughter’s knee injury and the breakdown of my modem.  Hopefully, my blog will pick up some animation now!

 Last year I had been presented the possibility of teaching a workshop in Senegal (which, unfortunately, I later had to refuse) and that led me to researching gris-gris, amulets worn for protection from evil.  Often the gris-gris is a small cloth or leather pouch containing small objects or written verses.  The idea of wearing writing for magical purposes fascinates me as my Muy Marcottage huipiles and dresses all have words or phrases stitched onto them.

gris gris


gris girs

magical writing 

One link leads to another and that’s how I discovered the work of Irini Gonou. Irini’s work is very poetic and deals a lot with magic scripts and apotropaic texts.  She has a series of work entitled The Sheltering Word representing her exploration…

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Introducing Gonou’s Magic Scripts and Apotropaic Texts to Bergen

Originally posted on Medieval Sai Project:

The preparations for Irini’s exhibition went well and as soon as the apotropaic clothes constituting her artistic viewpoint on the magic functions of the Arabic script were hung from the ceiling of the Bergen Resource Center for International Development, the sun rays filled  the exhibition space with light…

almost ready

…the visitors gathered around her and heard with interest her way of explaining how she works with such mystical powers like the shapes of the letters, the meaning of the words, the power of the poetic speech…

opening speech

…and a few of us, eager to go deeper into the world of scribal art, followed Irini’s seminar of Arabic calligraphy…

at the seminar

…can’t wait to see the space again tomorrow and advance in the paths of calligraphic empowerment of the written word and its scribe…

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Aurora’s Magic in Arabic Script

Originally posted on Medieval Sai Project:

On Monday, Irini Gonou (known to our readers from HERE) is coming to Bergen invited by the Organization for Greek-Norwegian cooperation in the fields of culture and humanities and the Center for Middle Eastern and Islamic Studies at the University of Bergen. The collaboration is based on an idea of Alexandros that Irini would be the most appropriate opening for the mobility programme Aurora that will bring in 2014 the University of Paris and the University of Bergen closer over the topic of the African Archive: its content, context and connections. Because Irini will bring with her to Bergen the great work she is doing on the use of the Arabic (but not only) script for apotropaic and prophylactic purposes. She will be hosted at the Resource Center for International Development for three days and in the frame of her visit she will also offer to all interested participants a seminary…

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Looking better despite the clouds…

Originally posted on Medieval Sai Project:

Early this morning, Irini Gonou departed from Bergen. With her, the sun that brightened the three days of her stay hid behind clouds that brought back the normal for the city rain…but it did not last long and the night sky as I write this blog is clear with a beautiful half moon!

And there are also such fine tokens of Irini’s passing from our world here in Bergen. Friends who participated in the seminar of caligraphy shared their achievements through facebook, I am choosing of course our blog.

The first writing with water on ink is a magical square that crowned our apotropaic experience of Monday.

magic square

The second is my playful mood with Qalam al Khat after two days of work:


And the third one is the honorable moment where I filled in ustaza Irini’s monogrammatic rendering of Mim, over and between Kha and Ta, with the rest of…

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