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Qur’anic Writing Board

Arts of Africa

On View: Double Take Installation, East Gallery, 1st Floor
Art can express our most important values. For the youngest of students to the most senior of elders, art can provide a vision of the ideal world.

This writing board is evidence and expression of devotion and discipline, and a connection to an international community connected by Arabic, the language of the Qur'an. In Sudan, students historically used wood writing boards to practice their Arabic calligraphy and to help them memorize Qur'anic verses. The text written on the front of this board is a verse from the Qur'an, sura 97, which addresses the night of the first revelation of the Qur'an to Muhammad.

The Lega figure called sakimatwemtwe, or "the man with many heads," represents the qualities of equity, wisdom, and discernment that enable its owner to see all sides of an issue and have knowledge of all things going on around him. It would have been owned by a man who belonged to Kindi, the highest level of Bwami, a hierarchical organization through which Lega initiates advance from one state of knowledge to the next.
MEDIUM Wood, ink, string
  • Place Made: Omdurman, Sudan
  • DATES late 19th or early 20th century
    DIMENSIONS 31 7/8 x 11 x 1 in. (81 x 27.9 x 2.5 cm)  (show scale)
    COLLECTIONS Arts of Africa
    MUSEUM LOCATION This item is on view in Double Take Installation, East Gallery, 1st Floor
    CREDIT LINE Museum Expedition 1922, Robert B. Woodward Memorial Fund
    RIGHTS STATEMENT Creative Commons-BY
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    CAPTION Qur’anic Writing Board, late 19th or early 20th century. Wood, ink, string, 31 7/8 x 11 x 1 in. (81 x 27.9 x 2.5 cm). Brooklyn Museum, Museum Expedition 1922, Robert B. Woodward Memorial Fund, 22.231. Creative Commons-BY
    IMAGE side, side 1, 22.231_side1_SL1.jpg. Brooklyn Museum photograph
    "CUR" at the beginning of an image file name means that the image was created by a curatorial staff member. These study images may be digital point-and-shoot photographs, when we don\'t yet have high-quality studio photography, or they may be scans of older negatives, slides, or photographic prints, providing historical documentation of the object.
    CATALOGUE DESCRIPTION Rectangular instructional tablet with painted designs in brown and black Arabic script. A passage from the Qur'an (chapter 97) appears on one side (see catalogue card for quotation) written in a square near the top. It is bound by a diamond-shaped pattern as well as pyramidal and flag like forms. Lower half has stylized figures and scorpions. Label on this side says, “Instructional tablet for school. Omdurman. 17". On other side script (single words) is interspersed with stylized human and animal forms as well as circular snail-like motifs. Handle has incised zigzag and circle designs. There is a cord tied around the base of the handle. Condition is good. Evidence of wear throughout, including some stains. Handle chipped and edges worn. String fragile; has been reconnected.
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