Al-Qawi Nanavati

Bandagi, to Feel (2016)
sawdust embossed print on paper
12 x 9 in.

I am an artist currently living in Chicago, originally from Mumbai, India. I grew up in a Hindu dominated culture. My ancestors come from a village in the state of Gujarat where they were converted from Hinduism to Islam during the Mughal rule more than a hundred years ago.

My work focuses on the meditative quality of Islam and Sufism known as Bandagi/ repetitive prayer and therefore process is very important to me, and every work goes through either 11, 33 or 99 layers, representing the Islamic prayer beads, the tasbih.

Since Islam doesn’t believe in rebirth, growing up I read that we come from the soil and we go back to it. The underlying idea of my work goes back to Hinduism and the cyclical philosophy of karma, rebirth and moksha (release).

To show these philosophies and my thoughts I used wood that comes from the earth, the soil, and I engrave into it different verses from things people told me, verses from the Quran, patterns etc. and then I print them onto paper and the brown color is of sawdust from the engraving /  burning of the wood.

It shows how we do a lot in our lives, we go through many hardships and many difficulties, but if we do not attain true happiness it’s not a fulfilling life because in the end everyone’s result is the same. We all die and the cycle continues. No one is ever living because they achieved more just like the pieces, nobody knows which one went through 11 layers and which one went through 33 because in the end they all are one layer.