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To describe an almond

  • Object type

  • Museum number


  • Title (object)

    • To describe an almond
  • Description

    Artist book, with Arabic verses of 'To describe an almond' by Mahmoud Darwish within abstract compositions; silkscreen; edition 9/10.

  • Producer name

  • School/style

  • Date

    • 2009
  • Materials

  • Technique

  • Inscriptions

      • Inscription Type

      • Inscription Script

      • Inscription Language

      • Inscription Comment

        Mahmoud Darwish, Ka-zahr el-lawz aw ab'ad (almond blossoms and beyond), 2005.
  • Curator's comments

    Nasiri’s work often combines the word and abstract forms. He was greatly inspired by the renowned Palestinian poet, Mahmoud Darwish (died 2008), and this work incorporates lines from Darwish’s poem, To describe an almond (published 2005). The poem, as translated by Mohammad Shaheen, addresses words and language, beginning: ‘To describe an almond blossom no encyclopedia/ of flowers is any help to me, no dictionary’.

    Label text:

    Rafa Al Nasiri
    To describe an almond
    Limited edition book (9/10), 2009

    Rafa Al Nasiri was greatly inspired by the poetry
    of Palestinian poet Mahmoud Darwish (died 2008).
    To describe an almond was published in 2005
    in Almond Blossoms and Beyond. These lines,
    translated by Mohammad Shaheen, are from the
    first part of the poem:

    ‘To describe an almond blossom no encyclopedia
    of flowers is any help to me, no dictionary.
    Words carry me off to snares of rhetoric that wound
    the sense, and praise the wound they’ve made.
    Like a man telling a woman her own feeling.
    How can the almond blossom shine in my own
    language, when I am but an echo?
    It is translucent, like liquid laughter that has sprouted
    on boughs out of the shy dew...
    Light as a musical phrase ...
    Weak as the glance of a thought that peaks out from
    our fingers as in vain we write it ...
    Dense as a line of verse not arranged alphabetically.
    To describe an almond blossom, I need to make visits to
    the unconscious
    which guides me to emotional names hanging on trees.
    What is its name?
    What is the name of this thing in the poetic of nothing?...’
    Given by May Muzaffar in memory of Rafa Al Nasiri
    2015, 6019.1

    Rafa Al Nasiri (1940–2013)
    Born in Tikrit, Iraq, Rafa Al Nasiri studied at the Institute of Fine Arts in Baghdad. In 1959 he went to the Central Academy of Fine Arts in Beijing, China, to study graphic art specialising in wood cut and watercolour. In 1967 he went to Gravura in Lisbon to study printmaking, returning to Baghdad in 1974 to open the Graphic Department at the Institute of Fine Arts. Between the 1960s and the 1980s he also spent time at the Hayter graphic studio in Paris, and print making
    workshops in Salzburg and London. Nasiri and his wife May Muzaffar left
    Baghdad in 1991 for Jordan where he worked at Yarmouk University, Irbid. From 1997 until 2003 he taught at the University of Bahrain returning finally to Jordan to work as a full-time artist in Amman. Until the late 1960s, the focus of his work was the Arabic letter. He then turned more towards abstraction. For much of the last 20 years of his life Nasiri’s work was inspired by Arabic poetry.


  • Location

    Not on display

  • Exhibition history


    2015 11 Jul-4 Nov, London, BM, G34, 'From the figurative to the abstract: modern art of the Arab world'

  • Associated names

  • Associated titles

    • Associated Title: Almond Blossoms and Beyond
  • Acquisition name

  • Acquisition date


  • Department

    Middle East

  • Registration number


Artist book, number 9 out of an edition of 10. The verses of 'To describe an almond' by Mahmoud Darwish are inscribed within abstract compositions.

Artist book, number 9 out of an edition of 10. The verses of 'To describe an almond' by Mahmoud Darwish are inscribed within abstract compositions.

the estate of the artist. © The Trustees of the British Museum

Image description



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