Bringing words to life

Al Khulud - © Allayth Ibn Idris
Al Khulud - © Allayth Ibn Idris
Al Haqq - © Allayth Ibn Idris

Al Haqq – © Allayth Ibn Idris

An American born to Nigerian parents with a degree in Spanish that speaks Turkish and Italian… and this has what to do with art exactly? That is probably the question that comes to mind when one first hears of the American artist Allayth Ibn Idris. While working towards his BA in Spanish, he concurrently studied various romance languages and also began studying the arts: screen writing; graphic design; sculpturing; and painting. On track to graduate in 2009, he simultaneously spent a year and an a half as an intern at an architecture firm in Santa Barbara, CA. Upon receiving his bachelor’s degree, he made the obvious move to Damascus, Syria to study Arabic. Nine months later, he returned to the US fluent in reading and writing Arabic.

Now living in Istanbul, Allayth, who takes his name from a 9th century Arabic grammarian, has been combining his unique global perspective with painting mediums to create what can best be described as the next step in Arabic Art. His motifs are akin to Arabic calligraphy with its use of the Arabic script in attractive forms; but do not EVER call his art the “C” word.

Midfa' - © Allayth Ibn Idris

Midfa’ – © Allayth Ibn Idris

As he says, “Arabic calligraphy is a well-known art form that has centuries-old rules and is studied over the course of many years. While what I do does borrow elements from this art form, it is really more of a pictorial representation of Arabic words.” Take for instance ‘Safinah’ (shown below), what is depicted is quite obvious (i.e. a sail boat), but what may not be so obvious is that the shape is literally formed by the letters of the Arabic word used to describe it.

Safinah - ©  Allayth Ibn Idris

Safinah – © Allayth Ibn Idris

His inspiration comes from the beauty and flexibility of the Arabic alphabet and the challenge of matching words to a physical form. “I have always loved Arabic calligraphy even before learning to speak the language. What I found uncomfortable, however, was the lack of a unique relationship between the words and the shapes they were given; I thus decided I would focus on creating this relationship. I thought, ‘an attractive form pulls one in, then the meaning will keeps one’; kind of like an illustrated dictionary, teaching the language as well as bringing the words to life.”

Al Khulud - © Allayth Ibn Idris

Al Khulud – © Allayth Ibn Idris

The imagery of ‘Al Khulud’ is one of the most dramatic, yet obvious pairings one could imagine of artistic expression and a word which means ‘infinity’. It is both strikingly clear, though quite understated in both its beauty and simplicity.

More of Allayth’s works can be seen at


Leave a Reply