Rebuilding in Miniature

Rebuilding in Miniature


When I was growing up outside Chicago, one of my favorite trips was to the Art Institute of Chicago to see the Thorne Miniature Rooms. I spent hours staring into each remarkably detailed room, imagining I had transported myself to the past and had secretly slipped into the grand entrances, libraries, living rooms, and bedrooms of people’s homes. Each visit left me with a sense of wonder and excitement.

When I came across the beautiful work of Ali Alamedy, the artist featured in this short film, I felt that same sense of awe.

Mr. Alamedy was born in Karbala, Iraq, in 1982, during the Iraq-Iran war. At the time, his father was imprisoned under Saddam Hussein for political reasons, and Mr. Alamedy wasn’t able to meet him until he was 9 years old. His mother taught him to read at a young age and reading quickly became his favorite hobby, as well as a way to escape to calmer and more secure places. Mr. Alamedy credits the novels he read as a primary reason he started building miniatures, “to recreate some of those scenes just as I had imagined them to be in my childhood.”

Eight years ago, Mr. Alamedy built his first miniature — a wooden cottage, inspired by a similar piece he saw at his uncle’s home as a child. He made the cottage from basic materials and weathered it using coffee.

At first, he had no idea what to call the kind of art he was making. In Arabic “miniature” translates to “Muna mn Amat,” a small painting on paper. He searched the Internet for the words “miniature” and “diorama” in English and was surprised to find a substantial community of miniature artists around the world. He began posting his work online and soon had thousands of friends and followers.

As he admits in the film, meticulously making each of the objects in his scenes to be exact reproductions of real objects, at a tiny scale, is tedious. Yet the act of creating is also meditative, a kind of quiet rebellion against the chaos of the world and the uncertainty in his own life.

I hope viewers will be transported into the world that Mr. Alamedy so lovingly and painstakingly creates, and find beauty and solace there.

Originally published in the #NewYorkTimesOp-Docs series.

Ali Alamedy, an Iraqi artist living in Turkey after being forced out of his country, makes incredibly detailed dioramas of places he has read about but has never been.

Director/Producer/Editor: Veena Rao
Featuring: Ali Alamedy
Executive Producer: Kathleen Lingo
Coordinating Producer: Lindsday Crouse
Supervising Editor: Andrew Blackwell
Camera: Veena Rao
Composer: Eliot Krimsky
Colorist: Begonia Colomar
Sound Mix: Pete Karam
Archival Stills: Ali Alamedy
Translation: Isra Abdulhadi

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