Last weekend I had the opportunity to meet one of the pre-eminent scholars of Bedouin culture of our times. Originally from Buffalo, Clinton Bailey has lived in Israel since 1958 and been actively involved in the Bedouin community since the 1970s. He has published two monumental works on Bedouin oral culture, A Culture of Desert Survival: Bedouin Proverbs from Sinai and the Negev and Bedouin Poetry from Sinai and the Negev: Mirror of a Culture. Both have been extremely useful in my calligraphy.
The second book is particularly important as it records and transcribes a cultural phenomenon that is disappearing. The younger generation of Bedouin do not memorize the poetry of their forefathers as the older generation did. Renowned throughout the Arab world and beyond as the most eloquent, most poetic strata of Arab society, the loss of the Bedouin poetic tradition in Israel is a cultural tragedy, and this work is crucial for recording that tradition before it is extinct. He is currently working on a third book, in its final stages before publication, on Bedouin law.
Photos by Rachael Strecher