Pearls, 2023

Photo: ©gerdastudio
Ocean Space Venice

Simone Fattal
Pearls, 2023
Seven blown Murano glass pearls, hand-engraved
4x Ø 50 cm, 3 x Ø 40 cm
Overall dimensions variable
Commissioned by TBA21–Academy
TBA21 Thyssen-Bornemisza Art Contemporary Collection
Conceived for the exhibition “Sempre il mare, uomo libero, amerai!” (Free man, you’ll love the ocean endlessly!), titled after a verse from Charles Baudelaire’s poem “L'homme et la mer,” Pearls comprises seven spheres made of blown Murano glass. They are engraved with the first lines from the “Contrasto della Zerbitana” (The Conflict with the Woman of Djerba), an anonymous fourteenth-century poem that recounts an argument taking place on the island of Djerba, off the coast of Tunisia, between a sailor and the mother of a woman he has abused, and one of the earliest example of Sabir.

“Oi Zerbitana retica
come ti voler parlare?
se per li capelli prendoto
come ti voler conciare!
cadalzi e pugne moscoto
quanti ti voler donare!
e cosi voler conciare
tutte le vostre ginoie.”

Sabir was a combination of Arabic, French, Greek, Italian, and Spanish. It was the lingua franca that all merchants, pirates, and slavers spoke along the Silk Road between the eleventh and the nineteenth centuries. This language linked all the people of the Mediterranean, but has been forgotten. Unlike today’s lingua franca—English—which is a testament to British colonialism and domination over countless lands, Sabir was a language without a territory.

Poetry is a rich vessel of transmission from one language to another, from one culture and temporality to another. The Contrasto brings to surface the repressed complexities of the colonial past and neo-colonial present of the Mediterraneans, impossible to narrate through a single story. “The pearl trade was one of the largest industries connecting the Orient and Europe,” Simone Fattal says, “and with it came politics, community, and a legacy we can still see in Venice today.” 

Accompanying the exhibition, TBA21–Academy and Sternberg Press co-published  
Thus Waves Come in Pairs. Thinking with the Mediterraneans, which can be ordered here.

Simone Fattal selected the following books for the reading corner of her exhibition:
ABU AL-HAYYAT, Maya, You Can Be the Last Leaf.
ADNAN, Etel, Le Destin va ramener les étés Sombres. 
ADNAN, Etel, Le Livre de la mer.
ADNAN, Etel, Of Cities and Women. 
ARSANIOS, Mirene, The Autobiography of a Language. 
BAUDELAIRE, Charles, I Fiori del Male. 
CALASSO, Roberto, Il rosa Tiepolo / Tiepolo Pink.
CARTER, Robert A,  Sea of Pearls.
DAKHLIA, Jocelyne, Lingua franca - histoire d'une langue métisse en Méditerranée.
GIBBON, Edward, The History of the Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire.  
GUÉBO, Josué, Songe à Lampedusa. 
HESIOD, Le opere e i giorni - la cosmogonia. 
IBN AL-'ARABI, Muhyiddin, Bewildered The Translator of Desires. 
KAPCHAN, Deborah (ed), Poetic Justice - An Anthology of Contemporary Moroccan Poetry. 
MERSAL, Iman, The Threshold.
ROSSELLI, Amelia, Locomotrix.  
STRAZZABOSCO, Stefano, Oikos - Poeti per il futuro.  
TOUFIC, Ahmad, Abu Mousa's Women neighbours. 
TSIRKAS, Stratis, Cités à la dérive. 
Virgil, L’Eneide - Libri I - VIII. 
Virgil, L’Eneide - Libri IX - XII.

TBA21 also acquired the standing figure 'Young Boy’ by Simone Fattal from the same exhibition.