Factum Arte´s collaboration with Hrair Sarkissian has resulted in the production of a series of seven skulls of Northern bald ibises and an aluminium map representing their winter migration from Syria to Ethiopia.
Hrair Sarkissian´s facsimiles of seven Northern Bald Ibis
The skulls are a facsimile of an Andalusian specimen preserved in and generously lent by the Zoo of Jerez de la Frontera in Southern Spain. The skull on loan was digitized at Factum Arte in Madrid using high-resolution photogrammetry and processed into a 3D model that could be 3D printed. The 3D print was moulded and cast in a mix of calcium and resin, which best resembles the appearance of bones.
The skulls were subsequently hand painted as Andalusian bald ibis' skulls. Each of the finalized seven facsimiles hangs on 30 cm metal rod attached to a stone base.
It is difficult to find the Northern bald ibis in the Middle East today as it is one of the rarest birds in the world. In 1994, it was listed as critically endangered on the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) Red List. However, the symbolic and cultural significance of ibises in the region is very significant and can be traced back to at least 4500 years ago. Ancient Egyptians considered it a symbol of wisdom and early Muslims believed that this migrating bird guided pilgrims during their Hajj to Mecca.
Bald ibises were considered extinct from Syria until a colony of seven birds, the last living descendants of those depicted in Egyptian hieroglyphs, was found in Palmyra in 2002. These seven birds were protected and their annual winter migration to Ethiopia was being monitored until the ISIS invasion of Palmyra. Hrair Sarkissian represents these seven migrating ibises that were lost or never returned to create an elegant metaphor for the current displacement and migration of Syrians.
The decline in the breeding range of ibises is part of a large wave of regional biodiversity loss of iconic animals and plants in the last 30-40 year. In the early 2000s, a community-based ibis breeding protection program was established in Palmyra, along with an extensive capacity building program for the local staff. These conservation efforts were interrupted from 2011 until 2014 because of the political situation. The current status of the rarest bird in the Middle East is highly critical.
The series of ibises and the migration map will be presented at Refusing to Be Still, a contemporary art exhibition organised annually by the Saudi Art Council.