The Conference of the Birds is an epic, mystical poem about 30 birds that venture out to find the “Simurgh,” a theoretical bird “God.” When the birds finally find the “Simurgh” they simply see a reflection of themselves. It is important to note that Si-murgh literally means “30 birds.” If the birds are metaphorical representations of humanity and their quest to find the Simurgh is religion, then the Simurgh itself represents Allah.
When I first read this, it made me question what Allah and the individual are. Are we all part of Allah, or is Allah in all of us? In the case of the birds, do the collective group of 30 birds make of the Simurgh, or is a part of the Simurgh’s essence in each of the 30 birds? Thus, my creative project was literally a representation of this.
I started off by folding 30 individual origami cranes to represent each bird that ultimately made the journey the find the Simurgh.
I then taped the birds together in the shape of a larger origami crane to represent the Simurgh.Thus, this sculpture literally represents the Simurgh (the bird diety) and Si-murgh (30 birds).
This sculpture answers my original questions. The individual birds are all parts of the larger Simurgh whole, but also have a piece of the Simurgh within themselves. As a religious extension, we are all part of Allah, but carry a piece of Allah within us.
On a slightly related note: the poem is also part of the Sufi mystical tradition, where practitioners seek ecstatic experiences, or a brief connection with Allah. The process folding cranes, for me, actually felt like one such experience. I started folding the birds as a break from my studies and paper writing during Reading Period. I realized that the repetitive motion while set to classical music helped me clear my mind. At certain points it almost felt as if I left my body and could see myself folding paper cranes from a third person perspective. Though this may not be a religious experience per se, it was an important experience to me as it was the closest thing I have personally felt to the Sufi experience of ecstasy.