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Identification and Creation

Object Number
Wasma'a Chorbachi (Cairo, Egypt 1944 -)
The Mystery of Supplication
Architectural Elements
Work Type
architectural element
Persistent Link

Physical Descriptions

T1 stoneware with incised and pressed decoration, gloss glazes, medium range electric firing to cone 7-8

Acquisition and Rights

Credit Line
Harvard Art Museums/Arthur M. Sackler Museum, Gift in memory of Annemarie Schimmel and Arthur L. Loeb
© Wasma
Accession Year
Object Number
Asian and Mediterranean Art

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"The Mystery of Supplication" is a set of eight modular tiles by the artist Wasma'a Chorbachi, coming to Harvard in two groups of four (2006.195.1-4 and 2008.130.1-4). The tiles can be arranged in any number of ways to create a composition that combines a graceful arabesque with an inscription. The inscription reproduces the Muslim profession of faith, followed by formulaic praise. Written in a fluid and inventive thuluth script, the inscription translates as: "There is no god but Allah, and Muhammad is the messenger of God. May his glory be glorified."
The tiles in this composition are the work of the Iraqi-American artist, Wasma'a Chorbachi, whose work can also be found in the Boston Museum of Fine Arts, the British Museum, the National Museum of Scotland (Edinburgh), the Beit al-Qur'an (Bahrain) and in public buildings and private collections in the US, Europe, and the Middle East. Chorbachi's work reflects her extensive knowledge of Islamic art history and mathematics (she gained her PhD at Harvard ca. 1981) and ceramics. For many years, Chorbachi has taught in the ceramics studio of the Harvard Office of the Arts, and is currently teaching a course at MIT on mathematical systems in Islamic art.

With this series of tiles, the artist has developed a style for integrating script and vegetation and for exploring the synthesis between the two. In this particular modular series, the words, which initially dominate the tiles, gradually interlace with vegetal designs and geometric forms, permeating and eventually merging with this representation universe. According to the artist, the words of the Muslim profession of faith "go out into the world."

--Mary McWilliams, 2008

Verification Level

This record was created from historic documentation and may not have been reviewed by a curator; it may be inaccurate or incomplete. Our records are frequently revised and enhanced. For more information please contact the Division of Asian and Mediterranean Art at