Alhambra: a space of text & texture

I finally saw the Alhambra this summer and as I have started our readings the memories of that hot day in Grenada swirled back and I remembered the endless beautiful walls of the palace entirely decorated with Arabic script. I was traveling with an Islamic friend and she said the walls were proclaiming devotion to Allah. Below is one of the pictures I took at the time.

photo-Sheila Cavanagh, June 2012, Grenada


The design of the frieze is entirely made of textual, textural layers. I choose this picture because I feel it embodies all the relationships among the ancient roots of the words text and technology – texture, technical, highly developed skills in all the arts and crafts, the creation of design, the highly skilled weaving of geometric and linguistic form in  media of stone, plaster and tile… the structure is literally built out of  words of praise. The palace complex also speaks to the technical skills  – techne – of the last Muslim rulers in Spain in the tenth century. The palace itself is an amazing creation, designed to grow out of the land it sits on,   and speaks to the living space – brings the historical into the present. The high level of ‘craft’, in the ancient sense, is amazing!

I could go on…

This is my last MET course!!! I was on Education leave last year and did 7 courses all together which was really stimulating and a lot of work. I am back in the Northwest Territories where I am the Principal of a small First Nations School in a fly-in Dene community. Our internet connection is not the best but I am hoping I will be able to finish this last course. I have been up here 10 years now and love my students and the community. I love to go hunting caribou in the Barrenlands, fishing on Great Slave Lake and hiking and cross country skiing all over – very pristine up here. Hopefully the oilsands won’t drop too many toxins into the amazingly pure lake.

I like to travel when I have time off – especially diving is a passion. I have two daughters – one a nurse in Alberta – just graduated; and the second heading off to Rome to do a masters in international food systems.

We looked at “The Question Concerning Technology” by Martin Heidegger last fall which I will want to look at again as I go through this course. The essay is basically an amazing meditation on ‘techne’ and ‘technology’ and his contention that we need to think really clearly about our relationship to technology – so I am very excited for this course starting right off with these ideas!

I look forward to learning with everyone this term.

Sheila Cavanagh

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6 Responses to Alhambra: a space of text & texture

  1. cmck says:

    Hi Sheila,
    Congratulations on being in your final course! My goal is to go up North sometime in the next couple of years. It looks so beautiful up there. I would probably end up going to the Yukon since it’s a bit of an easier trip for me that going to the Northwest Territories or Nunavut, but ideally, I’d like to visit all of them.


  2. kstooshnov says:

    Hi Sheila,

    It is so interesting to bring religion into the discussion of text, as so many of world religions got their start because someone at some point in history decided to write down some ideas, and those ideas became dogma to a much larger population. Not being religious myself, or rather “tied back” to one book or another, I am still impressed with the rich history of creativity these ideas have inspired. Of course, lots of unresolved issues too, but it seems to be human nature to not quite understand how some ideas get reinterpreted over centuries and millennia.


  3. awhetter says:

    Hi Sheila – I also want to take another look at the Heidegger piece – the beginning of this class feels very much like the beginning of 511 (my favourite class so far).

  4. smyers says:

    Hi Sheila,

    Congratulations on making it to the end of your MET journey! Hopefully your internet connection back home will cooperate with you.
    I have always enjoyed your thoughts and insights in other classes I have shared with you thus far in the MET program. I look forward to many more in the upcoming weeks.

  5. mcquaid says:

    Hi, Sheila.
    I’ve seen video and images of this site before, and it really gives one pause – the time and talent put into its construction are mind-boggling… but, to take the time they did to represent the content / text in the way they did throughout the place really shows how much value was placed on it.

  6. joypenner says:


    Congrats on almost being done! Interesting that you are looking back at Heidegger. 511 was one of my first courses and at the time I really did not like the mental gymnastics I had to use to read Heidegger. However, as time has gone on, I found his writing to be quite useful. I chose a quote from this same text for my post on technology.

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