Deconstructing Elsie
Deconstructing Elsie
Deconstructing Elsie

Prayer for Daybreak
GOD Protect Me from the Evil Eye

By Tania Baban
Marina del Rey, California: Conflux Press, 2013. Edition of 4.

9.5 x 5.5"; two gatefolds, opens to approximately 20". Soft-white Stonehenge, black Canson, silver and gold metallic two-sided decorative papers. Text inkjet printed. Text cut outs tipped on book pages with added collage elements. Bound with two separate book board panels covered in black and white bookcloth. Inset window on front board with a glass evil eye ornament from Turkey. Exposed spine, sewn with gold and black ornamental beads from Spain. Laid in box covered in black bookcloth with added ornamental element of evil eye made of cut outs, which have been covered with Dupioni silk or gold cover stock. Closure of handmade leather latch with braided black linen and gold threads loop.

Tania Baban: "Prayer for Daybreak: GOD Protect Me from the Evil Eye" is based on surah Al-Falaq 113 (The Dawn, chapter 113 from the holy Qur'an). This is a prayer for the superstitious to protect against the evil eye and black magic, but is most commonly used to ward off intentional as well as unintentional envy from others.

"I was inspired to use this particular prayer when I thought about the theme 'Superstition.' In Baghdad and the Middle East, where I grew up, it is the one of the most common prayers for superstitious people. But almost everyone knows it and invokes it – even those who aren’t religious. …

"I incorporated an actual evil eye glass charm on the cover of my book. This amulet is more than just a good luck charm – it provides the owner protection when worn in the form of jewelry on the person or hung on walls and doors of homes. The black and white bookcloth symbolizes the light vs. the dark or good vs. evil. Because Surah 113 is from the Qur'an, which often features heavy calligraphic illumination (similar to old bibles), I chose to enhance my book with traditional geometric/architectural Arabic designs and patterns, embellished with metallic inks. I use a gatefold format; the prayer is set on a dual-language centerspread with Arabic mirrored by an English version (based on several translations). I end the book with another evil eye symbol, the Hamsa Hand, popular in Middle Eastern and Mediterranean countries. As a graphic designer and a book artist, my tendency is to try to make everything very precise, especially coloring and cutting, etc. However, because this book is inspired by the old, hand-written and illuminated Islamic manuscripts, this is one instance where I actually enjoyed having the book not look too mechanical and perfect!"

Tania Baban, A brief history of the Evil Eye: "The evil eye symbol was first recorded by the Mesopotamians about 5,000 years ago in cuneiform on clay tablets. But it may have actually originated as early as the Upper Paleolithic age. It is possible that glass evil eyes were commercially produced some 3,000 years ago in Anatolia, Turkey. The color blue is often associated with the charm and evokes a connection to cooling, cleansing water. The image is found frequently in Muslim cultures as well as Jewish and Christian and some Buddhist and Hindu societies. Even among some Native Americans, a person who stares fixedly at a pregnant woman or child, or is too admiring, may produce a malicious effect on their lives, whether or not by intent! Some form of the superstitious term evil eye appears in most languages."