"I greet you from afar, O greet me back,
O blessed Tigris, river of gardens green.
I greet your banks, seeking to quench my thirst,
Like doves, between water and clay aflutter seen.
O blessed Tigris, oft have I been forced to leave.
To drink from springs which did not my thirst relieve.
O blessed Tigris, what inflames your heart
Inflames me and what grieves you makes me grieve.
O wanderere, play with a gentle touch;
Carress the lute softly and sing again,
That you may soothe a volcano seething with rage
And pacify a heart burning with pain"
Mohammed Mahdi Al-Jawahiri, 1962 (inscription around the base, translated by Hussein Hadawi, cited in Venetia Porter, Word into Art, London, 2006, p.8)
The present work is a smaller version of the huge six metre sculpture commissioned for the ground-breaking British Museum exhibition Word Into Art, which was shown in the London premises in 2006 before touring to Dubai in 2008.
The angular spiral shape recalls several related monumental motifs associated with Mesopotamia- the 4100-year-old Great Ziggurat of Ur, the spiral minaret of the nitnth century Abbasid mosque at Samarra, and many medieval European depictions of the biblical Tower of Babel, represented as a spiral tower.
The poem 0 Blessed Tigris is by the celeberated Iraqi poet, journalist and political activist Mohammed Mahdi Al-Jawahiri (d. 1997).