Mulla Nasrudin, 2011, Ink and Pencil on Paperboard, 120 x 150 cm


Mulla Nasrudin (ملا نصرالدین), Ink and Pencil on Paperboard, Shahram Entekhabi شهرام انتخابی

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Mulla Nasreddin is most probably a historical figure that is known as a wise fool, with an ambivalent attitude in his burlesques and sayings that can reach from total naivety to a clever inventiveness and quick-wittedness. The Mulla and his stories appear in literature and oral traditions from the Middle East to Greece, Russia, France - even China. Many nations claim Nasredddin as a native son, but nobody really knows who he was or where he came from. As generations went by, new stories were added, others were modified, and the character and his tales spread to other regions.

The themes in the tales have become part of the folklore of a number of nations and express the national imaginations of a variety of cultures. Although most of them depict Nasreddin in an early small-village setting, the tales deal with concepts that have a certain timelessness. They purvey a pithy folk wisdom that triumphs over all trials and tribulations.Today, Nasreddin stories are told in a wide variety of regions. In many regions, Nasreddin is a major part of the culture, and is quoted or alluded to frequently in daily life. Since there are thousands of different Nasreddin stories, one can be found to fit almost any occasion. Some people say that, whilst uttering what seemed madness, he was, in reality, divinely inspired, and that it was not madness but wisdom that he uttered.

My work Mulla Nasreddin takes us to the very heart of this mysterious mentor and it retells hundreds of stories and sayings full of the unmistakable, often backhanded wisdom, wit and charm of the timeless jokester. When the jokes have been enjoyed, their psychological significance starts to sink in. In fact, for many centuries they have been studied in Sufi circles for their hidden wisdom. They are used as teaching exercises, in part to momentarily "freeze" situations in which states of mind can be recognized. The key to the philosophic significance of the Nasrudin jokes is given in my piece. I do not only give the Mulla a proper vehicle for our times, I prove that the centuries-old stories and quips of Nasreddin are still the reality in the world.