Dr Rachel Scott, Lecturer in World and Hispanic Literatures, is part of the team behind a new exhibition starting on 12 May. 'Kalila wa Dimna: Ancient Tales for Troubled Times' runs at the P21 Gallery, London, from 12 May to 11 June 2022, and includes a series of events taking place both online and in person. It is a collaboration between academic researchers, artists, curators, and community organisations.
Dr Scott is an academic researcher for the exhibition and has also co-ordinated many of the public events. The exhibition is inspired by the global journeys of an ancient collection of moral fables known in Arabic as Kalila wa Dimna, which is similar to Aesop’s Fables and One Thousand and One Nights. The fables have had a long and complex global history: over the centuries they have been translated into more than 40 languages and read and re-interpreted almost continuously by different audiences, influencing authors like Chaucer, Boccaccio, and Jean de la Fontaine along the way.
The exhibition focuses on one chapter from the book called the ‘Tale of the Four Friends’ – a story about looking beyond perceived differences and working together to overcome adversity and build a sense of community. Experienced and emerging artists and community arts organisations become hakawatis or ‘tellers of tales’ and reinterpret the fable for contemporary audiences using mixed media, from oil painting and textile arts to illustration, music, calligraffiti and digital arts. The project explores the important role that stories have played in people’s experiences of migration, in building new communities, and in experiencing the world through different languages.
Running alongside the exhibition are multiple events, from online artist and researcher talks to in-person creative workshops and translation games. A launch event takes place this Thursday, 12 May. https://www.kalilawadimnaexhibit.com/exhibition-events
'Kalila wa Dimna: Ancient Tales for Troubled Times' has developed out of the work of Language Acts and Worldmaking, a flagship project funded by the Arts and Humanities Research Council’s Open World Research Initiative. It is principally supported by The National Lottery Fund, Arts Council England and Language Acts and Worldmaking. Some of the project’s activities have also generously been supported by funding from Royal Holloway’s Centre for Visual Cultures.