The Journey of Ibn Fattouma

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The Journey of Ibn Fattouma combines the historical tellings of the Journey of Ibn Battuta with the political musings of the author, Naguib Mahfouz. Just like Children of the Alley, Mahfouz changes another story to fit the purposes of his commentary. Like Ibn Battuta, Ibn Fattouma travels from place to place, and settles in each one, sometimes marrying and having children, and sometimes just observing in passing. However, instead of building mosques along the way, Ibn Fattouma’s purpose is to learn about other societies to hopefully improve the failings of his own or identify a perfect society. He travels from his home in the land of Islam to Mashriq to Haira to Halba to Aman to Ghuroub to his final destination, Gebel. Each of these places is associated with a particular type of government and society (from tribal clans to a monarchy to democracy). Mahfouz points out the failings and benefits of each as he tells Ibn Fattouma’s tale. Finally, Ibn Fattouma reaches Gebel, which is some sort of heaven.

For this art piece, I chose to paint a map because I felt like that represented the journey best. I imagined a route full of twists and turns as Ibn Fattouma caravanned to each city. I also made his route roundabout to communicate the idea that life is a journey that may not take you in a straight line, and you may have years of detours on the way. But, as Ibn Fattouma’s life shows, you will eventually get to your destination as long as your persevere (his goal was Gebel). At the end of the journey is Gebel, which is in the mountains and near a river, which is my idea of heaven when compared to the desert of the other areas.

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