“Stop being a prisoner of your past. Become the architect of your future.” (Sharma, 2016)
But what if said future found its map at the bottom of a coffee cup?
“عندك رزقة بيضاء”, after I lost my grandmother this was the only persistent imagery I’ve had of hers in my mind: Not the sickly days, not the moments when she was spoiling me, but her sitting in her kitchen on a small stool, holding a cup of coffee in her hands, with a gentle smile on her face, and all the ladies of the building around her while she read the residues in a coffee cup, and saying that exact same phrase. They always used to say: “ما حدا بيقرا متل إمّ جميل”, she made people smile, laugh, and even sometimes brought them to tears with her readings.
I never got the chance to ask her how she knew what to say, or how she even could build the narrative she so easily spilled… Time was short, and she was gone before I could realize that those moments weren’t meant to be forever.
Recently, I found myself turning my cup on its saucer every time I drank coffee, as if waiting for it to be read. And I realized that after years of watching my grandmother read cups I cultivated the habit of turning it around without even giving it much thought.
This observation lead me to actually take a closer look upon a ritual I hadn’t given much thought to: Coffee Cup Reading.
After researching its origin, development, and impact, I started looking at the residues and the pattern they created as maps that were meant to lead us to a certain purpose. It got me to consider the whole phenomena as if divided in three acts: The planning, the map, and the destination.
The planning: It consists of the act of reading the cup: The subject, the reader, the reading, and the cup.
The Map: The residues left in the coffee cup and the pattern created by them.
The Destination: The interpretation of the reading based upon the subjects recollections of the decoding of the cup.
This whole experiment is meant to shed a light on a vernacular social practice that is on its way to extinction, while at the same time looking at the veracity of the messages these women transmit. Also, it is meant to be an expression of a societal dichotomy between the habitual and the uncertainty of the future, while highlighting a way they coexist.
The destination is no longer a place, the constructions aren’t physical, but the future remains in the distance.
 You have a white livelihood
 No one reads cups like Em Jamil (The mother of Jamil)
Firstly, you have a white gate you will be going through. This is a big gate that has to do with work… and you will be happy.
You have a thin serpent, and you feel like, this person, this person is not good to you… Look, a blonde snake spreading poisonous words not too good to you.
Two signs you are going to hear words, either an official person, or someone with a hat on… you have a meeting with him.
A blank/white paper you’re going to read… or write. I don’t know!
A person is coming to say hello to you.
Laeti, you are anxious… you have this dog, a friend; no matter where you go he’s behind you, with you.
You’re going to get good news… but you are anxious… anxious… I don’t know!
You have this sadness at the top of the cup…. Damn it… Look how stubborn it is…
A candle, a beautiful candle!
You will hear about a mattress, a sickly person… someone you will visit.
You have a bird delivering news… a fortune… something you work in… you use… I don’t know but this is very good news!
In front of you are two signs, even though it’s late, but no matter what, it will happen! OK?
The maps photographed were used to create 3D models that were subsequently carved in wood.