Ibrahim El-Salahi Untitled from Prison Notebook 1976

  • MoMA, Floor 4, 420 The David Geffen Galleries

A wall of yellow dust soared to the sky,

Followed by redness, greenness, then a black wall.

The wall exposed a figure,

A black mass evolving, disguised in a human form,

Trotting and straightening as if four legged.

His apparel is a silk garment.

Honey is dripping out of his mouth.

His canine is of ivory, marble, and alabaster.

He smells of musk, basil, and ambergris.

His forehead depicts the dewy cluster of pleasures,

The light, the key to earthly life.

That was how he looked the day he came,

Yelling across plains and valleys,

Gliding down from mountaintops into alleyways:

You are my followers and disciples.

Whoever has a consciousness, I will buy it.

Whoever has a different voice, I will lock him up.

You can rejoice!

I am the messenger of reform, the savior of mankind!

I am redemption!

His voice became husky; the rattle of destruction could be heard between his jaws.

He extends a hand to his throat and pulls out a voice with octopus tentacles, of a diabolical nature.

He puts the voice to his left, and with his right hand he takes a burner, an anvil, and a hammer.

He hammers it, soaks it in the lantern oil, puts it back in his throat,

And calls out in a fancy voice, like that of an enchanting nightingale:

Whoever grants me immortality, I shall bestow him with eternal bliss.

He called in the soothsayer and the seven mythical goblets.

His arrow missed its mark and went too wide into space, its echo causing moaning among the scattered threads of light.

The sun closed its eyes, and darkness reigned in eternity.

From the east, a blue dawn broke,

A thunderbolt roared out loud in the universe,

The seed of goodness and evil split apart, and the myth disintegrated.

At that point death was brought forth to be slaughtered.

The wall of illusion was no longer there,

And the false prophet died once charlatanry died.

Ibrahim El-Salahi:This represents the tyrant who ruled at the time, and how he tried to deceive the people and had to appear to them. On his forehead is the symbol of desire, the key to everlasting life. This is what I had been warned about when the prisoners said to me, “Thank God you are free.”

Publication excerpt from Ibrahim El-Salahi. Prison Notebook, 1976. The Museum of Modern Art, New York, 2018.
Medium
Ink on paper from a notebook with thirty-eight ink on paper drawings
Dimensions
11 1/4 × 6 3/4" (28.6 × 17.1 cm)
Credit
Acquired through the generosity of Marlene Hess and James D. Zirin, Catie and Donald Marron, Alice and Tom Tisch (in honor of Christophe Cherix), Marnie Pillsbury and Committee on Drawings and Prints Fund
Object number
319.2017.24
Copyright
© 2021 Ibrahim El-Salahi / Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York / DACS, London
Associated work
Prison Notebook
Department
Drawings and Prints
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