Curated by: Sarah Al-Abdali & Salem Bajnaid June 8 – July 15, 2019
Abu Unbah Garden, Al-Balad, Jeddah

Sarah Al-Abdali and Salem Bajnaid have created an installation piece entitled The Seven Stages (2019), which tells the story of the ori- gin of the discovery of coffee by Imam Al-Shathli. In a series of sev- en puppets created with seven unique colors, each corresponding to a different stage in the story of Imam Al-Shathli’s discovery, which simultaneously mirrors the seven stages of ascension to perfection and closeness to Allah as espoused by the Islamic Sufi tradition.

The stages begin with Imam Al-Shathli entering the wilderness to meditate, after which he confronts a lion, and subsequent- ly seeks refuge on top of the coffee tree, where he discovers the cof- fee cherry. Descending from the tree, he roasts the coffee bean, concluding the story with the serendipitous discovery of coffee.

Inspired by the craftsmanship of Asia Minor, which she learned to master during her studies at the Prince’s School of Traditional Arts in London, Al-Abdali has used elements from ancient storytelling traditions, such as the Turkish Karagoz, to produce her puppets. Just like the Karagoz tradition, the puppets are meant to be played with by audience members, rather than being seen as static art objects.

The poetic mythical story is brought to life through the colorful pup- pets executed with a masterful skill, with each color corresponding to a different stage of the self within the Imam Al-Shathli story.