An Artist Book for Healing: Ethiopian Healing Scrolls, Aporia, Knots and Ikupasuy

Healing Scroll Artist Book 13 March 2016

“All over the world, people make objects to hold and send their prayers. There are special ceremonies found in ancient cultures and practiced today, that involve the construction of ‘holders and senders’ of prayers from natural materials.

Prayer carriers have many names such as Bahos (Hopi), Lung ta (Tibet), Prayer Flags, Ikupasuy or Prayer Sticks, Prayer Bundles, Prayer Trees and so on.”

I had almost finished drafting this post when terrorists maimed or murdered all those people in Brussels.

My original post was about how I’ve been irritated, frustrated then finally pleased about the upheaval I’ve had over the laying down of new carpetting throughout the house.

My carpet trials hardly compare with the Brussels massacre. Or many others across our beleaguered world.

And yet it’s not really about carpetting. It’s about metaphor and the metaphysical aspects of the process, like taking up/taking away, sorting and sifting, dividing, discarding, guarding (keeping back), putting on display, putting away, archiving and on all levels of being. It’s about thinking, choosing, feeling, calculating.

I have shed a skin. I feel lighter. My mind is clearer. Shuffling through yonks of begun then abandoned art projects revealed a Me that’s wrestled vigorously for meaning, for truth. I hope I can be forgiven for feeling compassion for this Me. In addition, the process revealed to me that my attempts to bloom artistically wherever I happened to be planted, were always through the organic. I discovered:

The natural world is my stable datum. 

Post-new-carpet, the first product from my refreshed studio is this little encaustic artist book. It’s inspired by Ethiopian healing scrolls and other ceremonial depositories of healing and protective prayers and medicines; objects like prayer sticks and flags and medicine bags and pouches. It’s a gift for a friend who has been somewhat ill recently. I wanted to make some art for her which would bring healing. Art can heal?

Healing Scroll Artist Book Back 13 March 2016No, not the object itself, but the object as a carrier.

In my research wanderings I’ve come upon some intriguing signposts labelled (such as) aporia, quipus and ikupasuy. I’m familiar with the quipus and have written about it elsewhere, and point out that the knots in my little book-scroll  mimic the knots – the storytelling knots – of the quipus.

Also other things. Knots stop. They are obstacles, e.g. for disease. They create a pause, allowing time for contemplation. As obstacles, they require reflection for problem-solving. They are stops on the way, for replenishing resources, re-stocking supplies for the onward journey. They are mathematical knots – think Mobius Strip, the Monkey’s Fist and Celtic knots and Quantum Knot Theory. The knot signpost indicates a group of walks.

I was not familiar with aporia and ikupasuy.  Aporetic  can mean ‘impassible’. I like a signpost that points in the direction of an impasse. I’m perverse.  Aporia is connected with Jacques Derrida and Deconstructionism.



Ikupasuy are “…wooden, carved ceremonial sticks used by Ainu men when making offerings to spirits. The central section of an ikupasuy is decorated, featuring animals,floral motives as well as abstract designs.”

I like that the central section is less substantial than the rest. Weaker. Fragility built-in. I particularly like the one in the picture, in which the centre has been replaced by a knot.

Healing Scroll Artist Book Front 12 March 2016My little book is quite fragile. I used blanket stitch to bind the two pages together. Sewing, winding, knotting, binding. All ritualistic gestures.

It’s very small. Each page/panel is only the length of a pencil, more or less. It’s made from two of the half dozen little plaster butterfly book pages I made pcc (pre-carpet chaos). Sari silk, twisted paper (the handles of paper bags, salvaged, collected). Shell, mother of pearl, oyster. Strings are knotted. Knots representing story, like the quipus. The handles are pieces of driftwood. The patterns on the reverse sides of the pages are the stitches showing through from the front, then encausticised.

ObHealing Scroll Artist Book Bottom 13 March 2016jects cannot heal. Can art heal? A work of art results from a series of decisions. Many decisions over years. It’s a bit like the Butterfly Effect or like dropping a pebble into a smooth body of water. The butterfly flaps its wings, or the pebble creates ripples. The resulting disturbance spreads out over space and time. A work of art results from choosing. The artist has to learn how to make decisions, to choose paths.

The art process mirrors life. To stay healthy – to stay alive – one must develop the capacity to think deeply, and widely, to make the right decisions that will keep us alive.

Learning to think should be the goal of education. It is the only way to combat the brainwashing that enables terrorism. It’s the only way to heal.

Take care of yourself – think deeply.


P S   There are more pictures of this work here: Ann Isik Artworks.

About AnnIsikArts

This entry was posted in Art, Artist Books, Collage & Assemblage, Creativity, Encaustic Art, Inspiration, Sculpture, spirituality, Stitch and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

7 Responses to An Artist Book for Healing: Ethiopian Healing Scrolls, Aporia, Knots and Ikupasuy

  1. I love this Ann. I’d not seen/thought about these beautiful healing scrolls before. May they bring healing to the maker also.

    Liked by 1 person

    • AnnIsikArts says:

      Thank you, Sally. I’m going to do more as it has triggered things worth exploring further. Making art is healing. It’s like ‘coming home’. Getting down to work is like a long sigh. 🙂


  2. Beautiful Ann! True inspiration.


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