Running a bi-lingual Website or: Talking about Contemporary Islamic Aesthetics in what language?
With the initial concept for Hawass, I intended a bilingual website, perfectly mirrored. The idea behind being that was to make this website about a topic clearly related to Muslim culture and society accessible to those most familiar with the Arabic language. Although „hawass“ includes examples from non-Arabic speaking countries, Arabic is the main language of reference when it comes to #ContemporaryIslamicAesthetics, since in many instances a relation to the sources per se, Qur’an and Sunna, is of some importance.
Besides questions of accessibility, my aim was — and still is — to create also a platform for writing about the website topic in Arabic, in order encourage knowledge production on a topic deeply related to the Arabic language in Arabic. Of course, there are many forums and media formats that allow for this already, but not on the specific topic: On aesthetic phenomena with a connection to Islamic theology and tradition, Muslim religiosity and culture but not from a religious perspective.
Why that? Besides, one of the problems that appear in research on Islamic Art and Islamic aesthetics is a language problem. Arabic terms are not sufficiently taken notice of or explained in their distinctiveness. For example, there is no original Arabic term for „aesthetics“. Translations such as „science of beauty“, as in the Encyclopaedia of Islam, do not cover the whole spectrum of what „aesthetics“ mean. But this does not mean that there are not concepts that combine beauty and perception, such as „aesthetics“ does. The ideas are just spread in different conceptual boxes.
Using Arabic terms more frequently means to open new perspectives. For example: Islamic Calligraphy is a big thing in Islamic Art history, for Arabic language is sacred and depictions especially of human and animals, i.e. „creatures“, are restricted. So calligraphy with its close relation to ornamentation and floral patterns became central for beautification especially of religious environment. But until now it was barely recognized that the Arabic term denoting calligraphy is not about beauty (Greek: kalos) but about the basic graphic element constituting Arabic script, the line — „fann al-khatt“, فن الـخـط , means „the art of the line“. (My article „ Reading between the Lines: Arabic Script, Islamic Calligraphy, and the Question of Legibility“, exploring Islamic calligraphy from the perspective of the line is forthcoming, please get in contact for more information or a fruitful debate).
What made me change the plan then?
Testusers advised me to rethink the initial plan, since their experience with bilingual sites is that they are almost never up to date on both language levels. And they are right. At the moment, I would not be capable of guaranteeing a proper bilingual site. Plus, most of those visitors to „hawass“ with Arabic as a first language will have knowledge of the English language to some point anyway. So I decided to rather support the more important part: Encouraging Arabic writing on aspects of Contemporary Islamic Aesthetics in the form of proper article entries. I will do my best to have proper translations for this selected content then in order to enrich the general debate with an Arabic terms perspective. This content will be get a special button and tag in order to make it available easily.
Please get in contact with me for any feedback on this!
- Author : Alina Kokoschka| © Alina Kokoschka
- Date :09/01/2018
- License :Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 4.0 International License