Islam Aly

Mare Nostrum, Al Motawaset

Islam Aly

Mare Nostrum, Al Motawaset



Edition Size



Brass, Inkjet, Laser cut, Leather, Silkscreen


Canson, handmade




5 × 14.5 × 2.5 in


Nasr City, Cairo, Egypt


Cloth-covered box

$ 1,500.00


View Collectors

Brown University, John Hay Library

Mare Nostrum was inspired by the ongoing Mediterranean Immigration Crisis, a topic that dominates news due to the loss of lives as people from all over the world attempt to cross the Mediterranean from North Africa. I wanted to address the journey that requires courage and determination, yet is fraught with fear of the unknown and the risk of failure. The book features images of boats and quotes from migrants who survived the journey. These quotes, sourced from interviews and video clips, offer a personal reflection on the crossing experience. The boats images are inspired by ancient Egyptian pottery, where boats symbolized ceremonial journeys, including the transportation of kings’ bodies across the Nile from life to the afterlife. This imagery draws a powerful parallel to the migrants’ journey from conflict and poverty toward the hope of freedom and stability. The color palette of the book reflects the Mediterranean Sea, with shades transitioning from light to dark blue, mirroring the migrants’ journey. Interactive elements, such as five small laser-cut circles in each section, allow viewers to engage with the book by moving brass boat bases within the page space, symbolizing the dynamic and uncertain paths of the migrants. “Mare Nostrum,” Latin for “Our Sea,” not only references the Roman name for the Mediterranean but also the Italian government’s operations to rescue migrants. The book concludes with a proverb highlighting the migrants’ resilience and their pursuit of a new life. Special thanks to my son, Mahmoud Islam, for suggesting the Latin name.” — artist Islam Aly