III. INTRODUCTION

1001 NIGHTS CONCEPTION

Pregnant insomniac night of insights

DELIGHTED to announce the birth of our son Caspian! Caspian like the sea. 1 x beautiful baby boy. We are over the moon!

As a new mother, during the nights I am awake. While the world sleeps, sleep escapes me…So I am also delighted to launch my 1001 Arabian Nights project simultaneously, as a way to mark these precious nights of our new life together!

Conception
I conceived of the 1001 Nights idea during a pregnant insomniac night of insights. I couldn’t sleep (normal in pregnancy as one’s body prepares for the nights of erratic sleep ahead) yet I wasn’t tired. It grew in complexity and scope as little Caspi was growing inside me. One drawing every night, for 1001 Nights. It dawned on me that I am going to make 1001 paintings for each and every story of the 1001 Arabian Nights as my next art project which will take up several years. I don’t mind this, I’m not scared of the timeframe involved, I’m committed to the project and I feel it needs to be done and that I need to do it. I’m in it for the long haul, which can be likened to having a child. I’d like to introduce/unveil it here.

On the Importance of Bedtime Stories
I read one night to baby Caspi every night. It doesn’t matter that he doesn’t understand the words yet; the important thing is that I read to him. Since he is newborn, I gently whisper the Nights to him to help him fall asleep. I believe bedtime stories are a vital ritual and folk tales and fairytales are a rich source of inspiration for me as well as being a repository of world culture and knowledge that cannot be expressed in any other way. More on this later, watch this space! I’d like to pass these down to our little one. While I’m reading, images float into my mind as they always do. Then I draw. These drawings are not illustrations as they don’t necessarily allude to anything in the text. They are riffs on the tales and records of mind wanderings during late night read-cuddle times with my little one.

On the 1001 Nights
Heroes and villains, magic carpets, flying horses, ruined cities, gold and treasures, mighty kings and humble fisherman, evil djinn and honourable slaves, mermaids and ifrits, merchants and sailors and tailors, enchanted islands and magic mountains, oceans of seas of stories, wicked viziers and curious caliphs, barbers and thieves, moon-faced ladies and ugly hunchbacks, charlatans and caravans, bustling markets and buzzing hammams, glorious palaces and quiet deserted streets… All of life is here! I’m so excited to share my wonder with our child! Stories within stories within stories; mises-en-abîme like insomniac dreams.

Rationale 
I have a newborn baby, and it’s partly to keep me going for the first few months, keep my artistic practice going, and partly to mark the time, marking in a beautiful way a sense of occasion for each night that Caspian learns about the world. It’s also all I am able to do with a newborn during these precious early days. Pregnancy and childbirth is a time to think about life and death, first principles and essentials. The 1001 Nights is my favourite book of all time. It encompasses all my essentials – my childhood, my heritage, the Silk Road, telling tales to escape death. More on this later, too. I’m also partly thinking of Mary Kelly’s Post-Partum Document. This isn’t a baby project nor a baby blog. This is an art project while I have a newborn baby. Fundamentally, it’s a way to keep art alive during busy times.

On Heroes
Scherezade became my childhood hero too, since she escaped death – just by virtue of her golden tongue. Thank God – she gets to live another night, and it’s worth it just for that one extra night – as she doesn’t know what lies ahead in the next night, whether her storytelling ability is enough to keep the king’s bloodlust at bay – but it is, it always is. She cheats her own fate, she saves her own life and also the lives of the remaining women around her, so she is absolutely one of my heros for life. A very early female hero for me. Life is really a gift. Jesus, Gandhi, Buddha, Scherezade. Everybody needs a hero.

On Miniatures
I will post the drawings online on this blog and also here, where it’s purely visual: http://www.1000nightsandanight.co.uk, as a way to connect with the outside world and for my friends and wider public to see, to hold me to account, and hopefully to encourage me to keep going. I will need support and I hope to support and inspire other people along this journey too. When little Caspi is 3, the drawings will have finished and I will have started to make them into the 1001 miniature paintings. Having a tiny little baby is actually a good time to think in miniature. It starts with these drawings.

On Women
Creating a tiny new life in one’s womb is in itself a huge thing, very private and personal yet also universal – all mothers know this. Some things cannot be put into words as they are indescribable. I love men, I am lucky to have examples of really wonderful men in my life that have shaped me (they know who they are); I admire their bravery and loyalty and everything else, but women are exceptional  – I never truly appreciated just how until now. They bring forth new life! The ultimate in creativity. Procreation is a masterpiece. What a privilege! Little wonder females were worshipped in the past. And what interesting times we live in today.

On the Small Hours
So…I am still waiting for things to settle… these early days and nights blend into one long day-night and I’m overwhelmed with love and life. We are tired but happy.

In the small hours of the night I smile, we read, I whisper, I draw, we cuddle, we dream, I pray and I am grateful.

This project is dedicated to our son Caspian. This post to mothers and fathers everywhere.

 

The hand that rocks the cradle rules the world.