The Alley of Gebelawi


The Children of the Alley, by Naguib Mahfouz, is a clear analog to the stories of the Holy Qur’an, from the story of Adham, which clearly comes from the story of Adam, to the stories of Gabal, Rifaat, and Qassem (respectively analogs to Moses, Jesus, and Muhammed). There is such an expanse of history and variety of beliefs and stories told in the book, that I found capturing the essence of the book in a single image to be quite difficult. It is as if I had to try to fit the origin stories of Judaism, Christianity, and Islam into one painting, and then further integrate them with the concept of science (as the last chapter of the novel does). Thus, I decided to focus on the location. Because, though the characters can easily be seen as representatives of people in the Qur’an, the location was invented by Mahfouz to be symbolic. Thus, instead of God living in heaven, Gebelawi lives in a great white mansion. And, instead of taking place in different areas, this alley contains the history of all of the great men of the Quran. Because location is so important, I painted the mansion and the alley where we see everything take place. I put the mansion at the top not only because it contains power, but also because we associate heaven with being above us. The road is the road of the literal alley, but it is also the path to and from heaven. When Adham and his wife are kicked out (just like Adam and Eve are forced to leave Eden), they leave the mansion, and go down the alley road to make a new home. And, just as some humans aim to get to God and Heaven after death, the characters in the novel aim to reenter the mansion.




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