Islamic architecture has always been a great source of inspiration for me, but it has always been difficult for me to truly capture the essence of these magnificently hypnotic architectural marvels. A cornerstone of this architecture is the Girih (Persian for ‘knots’), which are essentially tiling patterns prominently displayed on the walls, pillars, as well as on the convex of the domes. These mesmerizing tessellations are formed with a few basic tile patterns repeated over and over again. You can find examples of these all across the globe including the Middle East, India, Pakistan, Iran, Iraq, Afghanistan, Azerbaijan, Spain and Turkey.
I seem to have a special bond with Girih and I cannot stop myself from taking a photograph wherever I spot this pattern. Below, are some photos that I have taken while possessed with the Girih Djinn.
Wall Painiting – Shahjahani Masjid, Pakistan
Building Mural – Abra Station Dubai, UAE
Traditional Lamps – Madinat Jumeirah, UAE
Wall Painting – Wafi Mall, UAE
Chandelier – Wafi Mall, UAE
Golden Door – Masjid-al-Haraam, Saudi Arabia
Window Grill – Masjid-al-Haraam, Saudi Arabia
Sliding Skylights – Masjid-e-Nabawi, Saudi Arabia
Stained Glass – Masjid-e-Nabawi, Saudi Arabia
Ceiling – Masjid-e-Qiblatain, Saudi Arabia
Entrance Arch – Masjid-e-Khandaq, Saudi Arabia
The Door – Masjid-e-Khandaq, Saudi Arabia
Qura’an Rack – Masjid-e-Khandaq, Saudi Arabia
Stained Glass Window – Masjid-e-Khandaq, Saudi Arabia
Girih Reflections – Masjid-e-Khandaq, Saudi Arabia
Sehan Floor – Masjid-e-Khandaq, Saudi Arabia
Wooden Windows – Masjid-al-Haraam, Saudi Arabia
Arches – Ibn Batutta Mall, UAE
Gold Souk – Dubai Mall, UAE
Ceiling – Emirates Palace, UAE
Prayer Area – Emirates Palace, UAE
Mehraab – Emirates Palace, UAE
Wall Painiting – Shahjahani Masjid, Pakistan
Girih Pattern on Pillars – Shahjahani Masjid, Pakistan
Serene Supplication – Handcut on card-stock
Serene Suplication – side view
Serene Supplication – the praying man
Arabesque – Handcut on card-stock
Arabesque – close-up
Arabian Nights – Handcut on card-stock
Arabian Nights – close-up
I am no painter and I know it; what I do get, however, is paper, and how one can create spectacular designs using it. So to realize this dream of mine, I resorted to Scherenschnitte, the German art of paper-cutting to make some Girih patterns. These patterns have painstakingly been 100% hand-cut (if you look closely, you might be able to spot the flaws), but it was all worthwhile. Hope you enjoy feasting your eyes on them as I enjoyed cutting them.
Look around you: there’s despair everywhere. Entertainment just isn’t what it used to be back in the good old days. Watching television is like taking a depressant; a pill that drags you down into the abyss of melancholy, draining out all your optimism and leaving you with a sense of hopelessness. Same is the situation with other entertainment media; be it a viral Youtube video of two brothers being mercilessly beaten by a heartless mob or a newspaper article tallying the number of buses burned in the previous night’s riots. Sure, there are a few avenues promoting light entertainment, but invariably, you end up tuning into one of the news channels to verify whether there’s a strike tomorrow or not, or how many lives were extinguished in the city of lights today. We are so wrapped up in this entertainment (seriously?!) revolution that we fail to recognize a multitude of activities that can help nurture our constructive side and even introduce a degree of calmness in our otherwise chaotic existence.
Paper is perhaps one of the most readily available materials on earth and believe it or not, can be used to make beautiful creations. The various sizes, colors, thicknesses, and textures of paper make it a unique medium to work with. As kids, most of us would have folded a boat using a sheet of square paper; that’s Origami! Origami (meaning ‘paper folding’) is an ancient Japanese art-form that can be traced back to 17th Century AD, but was popularized outside of Japan in the mid 1900s . The main idea behind Origami is to take a flat sheet of paper and fold it into a finished sculpture using basic folding techniques. The use of any glue, threads or scissors to create/stabilize the sculpture is a taboo for Origami practitioners. A variation of Origami called Kirigami (meaning ‘paper cutting’) allows the use of scissors to create your sculptures .
Origami is universally associated with peace. An ancient Japanese legend promises that anyone who folds a thousand Origami cranes shall be granted a wish by the crane. A little girl named Sadako Sasaki (January 7, 1943 – October 25, 1955) contracted leukemia after being exposed to the radiations from the Hiroshima bombing on August 6, 1945 . She was only 12 when her disease progressed to a terminal stage. It’s an age where you still haven’t let go of the possibility of a miracle, so on the insistence of a close friend, Sadako started folding paper cranes with whatever paper she could get her hands on. Unfortunately, Sadako could only make 644 before meeting her maker. Her friends and classmates finished folding the remaining cranes after her death. Now every year on August 6, while Hiroshima conducts a Peace Memorial Ceremony, people from around the world send paper cranes in batches of 1000 to commemorate the child’s tragic death and her words:
“I will write ‘Peace’ on your wings and you will fly all over the world”
I started practicing Origami in1998, but went on hiatus from 1999 to 2007. It all changed in 2008 when I was inspired to fold a single paper crane after watching a TV show; and I haven’t looked back since. I started working on more complex and challenging designs and in most cases, finished off the models. Once I start working on a model, I lose all track of time. An unnatural calm surrounds me; the only thing I focus on are the folds, taking each step carefully, making sure I don’t make any mistakes. I’ve made stars and center pieces, cubes and cranes, dodecahedrons and icosahedrons, arabesques and florals; I just can’t seem to get enough. Sparing free time gets increasingly difficult but I find an hour here, a minute there to work on my latest project. The video below shows images of some of the models I’ve made:
Origami’s many positive attributes have been researched for quite some time now. A brief list follows :
Nurtures creative, inventive and constructive abilities
Develops motor skills
Helps your visual and spatial co-ordination
Explains geometric and angular relationships elegantly
Makes you more patient and attentive
Instills a sense of pride and joy when you finish a model
In this uber-destructive world we live in, we should promote constructive concepts. Origami is just one road that can lead to inner peace and tranquility; there are other art forms that help take your mind off the current state of affairs. I think it is high-time we started talking about something other than all the bad things happening around us. I don’t want my daughter to come up to me one day and say, “Papa! I want a gun that goes bang-bang-bang”; I’d rather want her to walk up to me and say, “Papa! I’m out of paper.”
Note: ‘Peace’ in this article refers to peace within as well as peace in general, because we cannot attain global peace unless we have inner peace.
I wonder why, but every time I pick a piece of paper, I hear someone shriek, begging me to go-no-further. “If you make one more fold, I’ll shoot you”, says my mum. Reflecting on this reaction people have, I think maybe it’s because once I get to folding, I lose all sense of time and space for hours, even days (depending on how complicated the model I’m working on is) at a stretch. A more profound understanding of this peculiar behavior hit me later, in a rare moment of clarity in my otherwise insane existence; people really do not understand how satisfying and soothing Origami can be.
These methodical series of folds require focus and attention, and have a strangely calming affect on your nerves. Life seems to slow down a bit as you tread down the valleys and mountains (refer to the folding techniques), taking each step carefully, holding on, knowing one false move will lead you astray. I have been practicing origami for more than 10 years now, but I still think of myself as an amateur.
These days, I get less and less time to retreat into Origami’s soothing embrace. The one consolation I have is that my wife appreciates creativity and is eager to learn this age-old art-form; one eager student is better than none. In this post, I present some of the models that I have created over the years. Lately, I haven’t created anything new but I intend to change that soon, thanks to my one-woman fan-club.
These cool stars are fun and easy to make; use them as a way to fill up your decoration pieces or to distract your kids from the mayhem they cause. See the video below for a step-by-step instruction guide. Hope you enjoy them.