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

Karl Lagerfeld and the Opéra national de Paris: A multi-sensorial, artistic collaboration

Karl Lagerfeld and the Opéra national de Paris: A multi-sensorial, artistic collaboration

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Photo by Jewel K. Goode, 2016. Karl Lagerfeld Backstage at the Opéra Bastille for George Balanchine’s Brahms-Schönberg Quartet. All Rights Reserved.

The haute couture ballet costumes and set design for George Balanchine’s Brahms-Schönberg Quartet were created by Karl Lagerfeld for the Opéra national de Paris.  Renowned dancers Bart Cook and Maria Calegari served as the choreographers, and I acted as the cultural liaison and assistant to choreographers, artists, and directors.  The luxurious costumes reflect an innovative, collaborative approach to fashion in the rapidly evolving globalized community.  Moreover, they fully activate the five senses while providing elements of fantasy of a bygone era.  For, “There will never be a world without fantasy, which expresses the unconscious unfulfilled” (S. Kaiser, 1997).

jewel-goode-opera-national-de-paris-balanchine-premiere-with-bart-cook-and-maria-calegari
Photo by Jewel K. Goode.  Jewel K. Goode with choreographers of George Balanchine’s “Brahms-Schönberg Quartet”, Bart Cook and Maria Calegari.  All Rights Reserved.

This is an essential point, since art, fashion, and culture inhabit the same multi-sensorial landscape.  They represent a constantly evolving visual language which must be effectively transmitted to spectators. Inaugurated in 1875, the OnP formerly represented an elitist Parisian society.  The institution was historically linked to utopian images of wealth, power, prestige, and elegance. Therefore, Lagerfeld’s costume designs for each of Balanchine’s four acts needed to the encapsulate the Zeitgeit of the OnP.  That essence was effectively transmitted through a consistent visual theme involving textures, costume accessories, and classical ballet silhouettes.  A muted color palette of white, pale pink, and crème-orange created a bold visual juxtaposition with the monochromatic interjection of black and white details and piping.  Traditionally feminine elements and curvilinear shapes were visible with velvet headpieces and armbands, satin ribbons, tulle/chiffon tutus, and bejeweled caps.  These contrasted the straight lines and geometrical shapes traditionally considered masculine.

Lagerfeld conceptualized various sketches which were inspired by the Vienna Secession, an artistic movement established in 1897. Costumes were skillfully constructed in the OnP couture atelier according to Lagerfeld’s initial artistic intentions, but still allowed for subsequent modifications and adjustments of material, fabric, and accessories.  Thus, costumes were individually adapted to each ballet dancer, taking into consideration rigorous choreographic maneuvers.  They also accounted for other variables including lighting, sound, and stage conditions.  This resulted in the creation of regal, yet fashionable costumes which contributed to the multi-sensorial landscape while integrating an advanced degree of technological innovation and functionality.

Lagerfeld’s extensive research resulted in the creation of tailored men’s black and white suede waistcoats, as well as folklore-inspired, embroidered headdresses.  The women’s costumes included black and white bodices with princess seams in satin and velvet attached to voluminous tutus constructed of pink, orange, and white tulle/chiffon.  Use of luxurious fabrics and detailed embroidery created a sophisticated, glamorous environment of classic, understated elegance.  It also alluded to a previous era where clothing was symbolic of an individual’s social status and morality – whether actual or contrived.  Lagerfeld’s set design purposefully evoked an ancient palace adorned with heavy, gray, floor-length drapery.  This contrasted the color palette and texture of the costumes.  Such an atmosphere was meant to reference the waning splendor of the Austro-Hungarian Empire.

Artistic collaborations between the French heritage institution and fashion have steadily increased in the globalized economy.   The OnP has hosted a variety of cultural events and fashion shows such as Stella McCartney and Dries van Noten.  Moreover, the OnP has collaborated with renowned fashion designers including Christian Lacroix for George Balanchine’s Le Palais de cristal, and Yves Saint-Laurent for Roland Petit’s Notre-Dame de Paris.  Recently, it has begun collaborative efforts with contemporary, avant-garde fashion designers such as Iris van Herpen for Benjamin Millepied’s Clear, Loud, Bright, Forward, Alessandro Sartori for Millepied’s La nuit s’achève, and Mary Katranzou for Justin Peck’s Entre chien et loup.

Author: Jewel K. Goode