Silk Roads Series: Classical Arabic Poetry

Jewel Goode Silk Roads Classical Arabic Poetry

Classical Arabic poetry was directly influenced by the historical events of its time. As with other literature from regions belonging to the Silk Roads, it is deeply rooted in spatial and temporal realities.  Due to sparse documentation and fragmentary evidence of literary works, concrete evidence about the early developmental stages is lacking.  Nonetheless, it is known that the literary heritage of the classical period included numerous collections of poetry, maxims and proverbs known as amthal, narrative genre, and rhetorical prose. This literature can be divided into two demarcated phases.  The first phase dates from its origins to 660 CE, and includes what authors have referred to as Jahiliyya, or the period before Islam.  The second phase dates from 660-750 CE.

Literary material attributed to the first phase constituted a variety of legends involving fools, cowards, crafty individuals, and accounts of mythical creatures.  These were orally transmitted by poets who enjoyed immense public prestige due to their linguistic prowess. Two elaborate forms were implemented that later acquired considerable prestige, eventually being recognized as classic structures of Arabic poetry: the marthiya, strictly reserved for funeral elegies, and qasida (the ode), which served as the framework for all thematic developments due to its unity of style and tone. Three generations of poets applied a diversity of these elements in their art. Notable pioneers of the first classical phase include Imru’ al-Qais bin Hujr al-Kindi,oftentimes considered the father of Arabic poetry, al-Muhalhil Adi ibn Rabia’, Tarafah ibn al-ʿAbd, and Ka‘b ibn Zuhayr. These poets succeeded in imprinting individual sensibilities on poetic discourse that was viewed as an aesthetic, literary model for successive generations.

During the second phase of classical Arabic poetry, the marthiya and the qasida both continued to evolve, thus reflecting imminent societal concerns. These included the development of Islam, as well as the cultural symbiosis produced by its rapid expansion. Therefore, poetic expression expanded in directions which encouraged exploration of the self, political commitment, and deeper meditation.  As a result, poetic themes transformed, producing three new genres: the love poem (ghazal), the political poem (al-Shi’r al-siyasi), and the ascetic poem (zuhdiyya). Moreover, the development of Arabic poetry at the end of the 7th century and beginning of the 8th century was accompanied by a significant renewal of literary prose.  This was reflected in an intense diversification of the art of rhetoric, which reflected the eloquence of oratory discourse in a variety of themes. It was also apparent in the creation of a new genre, the epistle, written in a fluid direct style that used picturesque expressions and strongly accented rhythms.

Finally, this developmental transformation was evident in the acclimatization of the fable, such as Kalila wa-Dimna, a collection of Indian fables.  First written in Sanskit, with origins possibly dating to 4th century, it was subsequently translated into Arabic by Ibn al-Muqaffa in the 8th century.  Translated into over fifty languages, it is still read in contemporary society.  Due to the reciprocity of these exchanges, these literary forms also transferred to other languages and cultures, such as Persian and Turkish.  Through the originality of their content and elegance of style, these works inaugurated a new literary period that embodied the creative contributions from a diversity of cultures.

Author: Jewel K. Goode.  Global Communications Specialist, Writer, Art Curator, and Photographer

image © Zhenia Perutsk

sources provided upon request

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Silk Road Series: Classical Arabic Poetry

La Fondation Louis Vuitton: A Strategic Maneuver

La Fondation Louis Vuitton: A Strategic Maneuver 

Jewel Goode Paris, France Fondation Louis Vuitton
Paris, France. Fondation Louis Vuitton © Jewel K. Goode, All Rights Reserved.

Bernard Arnault, President and CEO of luxury goods conglomerate LVMH, collaborated with Canadian-American architect, Frank Gehry, to create a new museum in the Jardin d’Acclimation.  Extensive and costly renovations were estimated to be approximately 158 million Euros.  The French cultural center has been dedicated to artisanal crafts and traditions, and is located in the Bois de Boulogne in the former Musée des Arts et Traditions Populaires (MATP), an ethnographic museum which has been classified as an historical site.  Since the MATP is classified as an historic site, it cannot be sold.  The city of Paris struggled to find a new tenant willing to undertake massive renovations of the defunct building.  Therefore, Arnault has agreed to a 50-year lease at 150,000 Euros per year in order to create a new museum, which is housed in a building adhering to sustainable development codes.

The building is located just 300 meters from Arnault’s Fondation Louis Vuitton.  Inaugurated in 2014, it was also designed by Gehry.  By transforming the MATP into a lucrative asset, Arnault has increased visibility of the Fondation Louis Vuitton.  For example, welcomed more than 1,200,000 visitors to its Chtchouckine collection.  It has also strengthened awareness for the LVMH brand universe, further highlighting the importance of artisanal work and exceptional craftsmanship inherent to the brand’s DNA.  Over a three year period, the MATP will be subsequently renamed La Maison LVMH / Arts – Talents – Patrimoine.  The 13,600 square-meters of usable space includes exhibition rooms, gallery spaces, an artisanal workshop welcoming resident artists, an event hall, and a rooftop restaurant.

The collaborative efforts between Arnault and the city of Paris could be viewed as a strategic maneuver. Geographical expansion of the mogul’s empire would not be farfetched, especially after its aggressive and failed attempts to acquire Hermès in 2010.  Designed by architect Jean Dubuisson (1914-2011) in collaboration with Michel Jausserand and Olivier Vaudou, Georges-Henri Rivière’s MATP officially closed its doors to the public in 2005, and its 250,000 art objects were transferred to the Musée des civilizations de l’Europe et de la Méditéranné (MuCEM) in Marseille. Since its closing, the MATP has fallen into a state of disrepair due to conflicts with the city of Paris and the Ministry of Culture.  The city of Paris hopes to decrease its debt burden with these recent collaborative efforts between Arnault and Gehry.

Jewel Goode Paris, France Fondation Louis Vuitton
Paris, France. Fondation Louis Vuitton © Jewel K. Goode, All Rights Reserved.

Author: Jewel K. Goode.  Global Communications Specialist, Writer, Art Curator, and Photographer