The Phoenician Alphabet

Nayla Romanos Iliya
EUR €25


Co-published with Rose Issa Projects

Nayla Romanos Iliya shares her story as an artist via childhood sound experiences and linguistic exposures. Her life journey is both familiar and unique, a Lebanese at home in exploring the sounds and shapes of an ancient language to which she has anchored the fluid idea of selfhood. An architect by training, she possesses an inclination toward spatial articulation of forms that is profoundly influential in her work. She makes sculptures of shapes that convey resonances of the Phoenician alphabet, an extinct language whose earliest known inscriptions come from Byblos, Lebanon. Nayla Romanos Iliya’s letters, in their graphical shapes, act as visually imagined representations of sounds. As such, her work offers one of the most fascinating interventions of the creative mind into one of the greatest inventions of human beings.

About the Artist

Nayla Romanos Iliya

Nayla Romanos Iliya is a Lebanese architect and artist. Her numerous realizations in the field include projects of architecture, renovation and interior design in Lebanon. Leaving her home country near the end of the civil war, she moved to Paris, then lived in London, Hong Kong and Dubai. During this period, she was exposed to diverse cultures, pursued design and Feng Shui workshops, and, earlier on, developed a strong interest in art. She started sculpting in 2011, became immediately passionate about it, and has devoted herself fully to her art since. Influenced by her architectural practice, Romanos Iliya approaches her sculptures as such, replacing function with intuition. She works in a multi-disciplinary way, and is interested to do collaborations with organisations, as well as other artists or designers. Experimenting with different techniques and media, she is equally at ease working on radically different scales, from monumental public art to small size series, or even wearable art. Romanos Iliya’s formative years in a war-torn country, coupled with her cross-cultural experiences thereafter, are defining triggers in her work. While exploring her issues of identity and social concerns, she developed her own sense of aesthetics, intuitive and optimistic -no matter how critical the themes addressed are. Her sculptures can be found in private collections, as well as in public ones, such as the Gray Hotel in Beirut and the Four Seasons Hotel in Abu Dhabi. She currently lives and works in Beirut.

About the Authors

Rose Issa

Rose Issa is a curator, writer and producer who has championed visual art and film from the Middle East and North Africa in the UK for more than 30 years. She has lived in London since the 1980s, showcasing upcoming and established artists, producing exhibitions with public and private institutions worldwide, and running a publishing programme. Through curating numerous exhibitions and film festivals, she introduced Western audiences to many artists who have since become stars of the international scene, including: Ayman Baalbaki, Shadi Ghadirian, Monir Farmanfarmaian, Bahman Ghobadi, Hassan Hajjaj, Fathi Hassan, Farhad Moshiri, Abbas Kiarostami, Rachid Koraichi and Nja Mahdaoui.

Sir Peter Murray

Sir Peter Murray founded the Yorkshire Sculpture Park in 1977, which became Museum of the Year 2014. Some of the major exhibitions he has organised at Yorkshire Sculpture Park include Henry Moore and Landscape, Emile Antoine Bourdelle, Elisabeth Frink, Lynn Chadwick, Phillip King, Fritz Wotruba, Gio Pomodoro, Kan Yasuda, Magdelena Abakanowicz, Joel Shapiro, Auke de Vries, Marino Marini, Barbara Hepworth, Eduardo Chillida, William Turnbull, James Turrell, Isamu Noguchi, Nigel Hall, David Nash, Jaume Plensa, Tony Cragg, Joan Miró, Ursula von Rydingsvard, Sir Anthony Caro and Andy Goldsworthy, which won the South Bank Show Award for Visual Arts. In 1988, Murray was awarded the National Arts Collection Fund Award and in 1989 was made Honorary Fellow of the Royal College of Art, as well as Fellow of the Royal Society of British Sculptors. He has been awarded Honorary Doctorates from the University of Lincolnshire and North Humberside, the University of Huddersfield, York University and the University of the Arts, London. In 1996, Murray was awarded an OBE for services to the arts and more recently received a CBE for continued services to the arts. In 2022, he received a Knighthood. In 2012, Murray received both the National Critics Circle Art and Architecture Award and the Catalan Ramon Llull Award for Creative Arts, awarded in conjunction with the Principate of Andorra. He was a member of the Board and Vice President of the International Sculpture Centre in the USA and has been a Trustee of the Marino Marini Museum in Florence and the Paolozzi Foundation. He is a Trustee of Springhornhof, Germany and a member of the Advisory Board of the Middleheim Museum, Belgium.

Sussan Babaie

Sussan Babaie joined The Courtauld Institute of Art in 2013 to take up a newly established post teaching on the arts of Iran and Islam. Born in Iran, Sussan attended the University of Tehran’s Faculty of Fine Arts (Graphic Design) until the revolution of 1979 when she moved to the USA to study for a Master’s degree in Italian Renaissance and American Arts, followed by a PhD at the Institute of Fine Arts, NYU, where she focused on the arts of Islam. She has many years of experience teaching at Smith College and the University of Michigan in America, and as the Allianz Visiting Professor at the Institut für Kunstgeschichte, Ludwig Maximilian University, in Munich.

Technical Details

Publication Date:
Wednesday, November 30, 2022
20 x 18 cm
Number of Pages:
Kaph Books