Cairo: Islam Aly, 2022. Number 11 of 40 copies signed, numbered, and dated by Islam Aly, the artist. "Mare Nostrum" is a bilingual book in English and Arabic that spotlights the Mediterranean Immigration Crises, with people from sub-Saharan Africa, the middle and far east going to north Africa to cross the Mediterranean using primitive boats and the help from traffickers of immigrants. According to the Missing Migrants Project, more than 23,600 missing migrants have been recorded in the Mediterranean since 2014. This book records the words of some of the migrants who survived the journey. "Mare Nostrum," Latin for "Our Sea," was the Roman name for the Mediterranean Sea. Also, the Italian government uses the name Mare Nostrum for the military and humanitarian operations to rescue the migrants and arrest the traffickers of immigrants.
This intricate book, bound in silk-screened white and blue cloth with boat images, has several sections of eight pages, each with a quote from a migrant in English and Arabic. There is also a laser cut out of a boat and five laser cut circles. When each page of the section is turned, the text and boat image start to fade until they are virtually invisible by the last page. The book, with a Coptic binding, is accompanied by five small brass boats that are housed in a separate compartment in the book's box. The boats can be inserted to stand up in the laser cut circles. The box holding the book and brass boats is covered in dark blue cloth with title label to box lid. It has a long blue leather tie with a brass boat attached. Box size: 14.5 x 5 x 2.5 inches. The book is 9 x 4.5 inches. A beautiful production in fine condition.
Islam Aly is an Egyptian-born book artist and teacher based in Cairo, who studied book arts and art education at the University of Iowa. His books explore the possibilities of historical bindings in contemporary book art practices They have appeared in international exhibitions in the United States and abroad, and in private and public collections including the New York Public Library, the Metropolitan Museum of Art, the National Library of Chile, Yale University, and Bibliotheca Alexandrina. In an artist's statement he writes: "When I make a historical book structure, I go through a learning process. I learn the history as well as the different physical aspects of the binding such as how a book form is constructed in a specific sequence. I learn about the use of different materials such as paper, wood, leather and dyes. I learn to make choices in selecting and replacing traditional materials that I don’t have access to. I use these different experiences to enhance my work in making artists’ books and to use historical and cultural references from these structures in the actual content. In essence, I wish to explore new ways to use the rich structures of historical books in contemporary artists’ book practice and incorporate contemporary content into strictly historical structures." ARTISTSB/080222. Fine.