Conference of the Birds

Yasmin Sinai

November 2014

Yasmin Sinai is constantly looking for ways to make art simple and accessible to everybody. In her latest show, "Conference of the Birds", the Dubai-based artist of Iranian and Hungarian origin has used recycled cardboard, a needle and thread to create beautiful sculptures of a variety of birds. Sinai is also conducting workshops to teach this technique to all art lovers.

The show is inspired by Persian poet Farid-uddin Attar's famous poem, The Conference of the Birds. The poem tells the story of all the birds in the world gathering to decide who should be their king. They decided to find the legendary Simorgh, a mythical phoenix-like bird that lives on top of the Qaf mountain. Only 30 birds managed to complete the long and difficult journey, but all they found was a lake in which they saw their own reflections. 

The story, which plays with the dual meaning of Simorgh - the legendary bird and Simorgh, which means 30 birds - is profoundly spiritual. Each bird in the story represents a human failing that prevents human beings from attaining enlightenment. And their journey involves crossing seven valleys that represent the different stages that, according to Sufi philosophy, one must traverse to realize the true nature of God. The 30 birds that completed this journey thus realized that the Simorgh of God resides within them and is reflected in the totality of existence.

"I have recently moved to Dubai and saw a hoopoe for the first time. I really liked this bird and it was the first one I made in this series. I was really excited to find out that in Attar's story, the hoopoe was the leader of the birds, I have made 15 of the 30 birds that completed the journey and the remaining 15 will be made by my students in the workshops," Sinai says.

The Birds include an owl, a rooster, a stork, playful parrots, a peacock and a Simorgh, depicted as a creature with a human head, body and a lion's feet. Instead of paint, Sinai has used colored cardboard and paper to create the feathers, crest and tails of the bird; and rather than using glue, she has sown together the cardboard pieces with colored  thread. The birds are all perched a top stacks of shoe-boxes that have been painted white and decorated with cut-outs of traditional decorations found in Persian mosques.

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