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Behind the Art: “The Butterfly Effect”

By Yasmeen Abdullah

We were delighted, and intrigued, when artist Yasmeen Abdullah told us her painting “The Butterfly Effect,” the cover art for our December 2020 issue of writing by Sudanese women, was based on Mahmoud Darwish’s poem of the same name. The artist kindly answered our questions over email.

WWB: When did you first read Darwish's poem "The Butterfly Effect"?

Yasmeen Abdullah (YA): Five years ago I started to read Darwish's poetry. “The Butterfly Effect” was my favorite poem. 


WWB: How did the poem inspire you?

YA: It made me think, what is the “butterfly effect” in the first place? I was fascinated when I learned it is a theory that small things can have a nonlinear impact on a complex system. The concept is illustrated with a butterfly flapping its wings and causing a typhoon. That gave the poem a deeper meaning, and I started to apply the butterfly effect theory to my life and the people around me. 


WWB: How does your painting reflect the poem? What do the figures in the painting represent?

YA: The painting was shown at an exhibition in honor of International Women's Day at the French Institute in Khartoum. More than ten female artists participated in the exhibition, which was called "The Butterfly Effect," so it was the most perfect place I could ever imagine to display my painting. The painting is a simulation of what I started to do and a translation of Darwish’s poem. The main figure represents me, or anyone trying to make a big difference, trying to be kind and spread small things: a smile or a word, or anything else. Regardless of how big or small these things are, I hope they will affect other lives in a good way. It's all about making changes with the simplest tools that you have. 


WWB: Are you often inspired by literature? 

YA: This is what I have been doing for the last five years. All my artwork has been inspired by Mahmoud Darwish’s poetry. I am looking forward to reading more and being inspired by other writers. 


Related Reading:

Aperture: Sudanese Female Novelists Coming into Focus

Behind the Art: "Rose of Sapatão"

"The Tragedy of Narcissus The Comedy of Silver" by Mahmoud Darwish

Published Dec 11, 2020   Copyright 2020 Yasmeen Abdullah

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