The Great Caliph Boabdil

Written by Lauren Moya Ford

Long ago, in the ancient city of Granada, there lived a great caliph. The Mighty Boabdil was king of the last jewel of the Spanish Muslim empire, and made a martyr out of many a Christian crusader who attempted to storm his gates. Boabdil lavished in his splendiferous wealth; his palace was a wonder to behold, beset as it was with beautiful gardens, libraries, and even a menagerie of wild beasts collected from afar. The Great Caliph Boabdil was much feared and much hated, known as he was throughout the land. But as fate would have it, his destiny, and indeed the destiny of an entire continent, would soon change.

On that fateful Tuesday, Boabdil was "blowing off steam" in the Geode Room of his Korean-style sauna with the Sorcerer Brian al-Habib.

“Sorcerer Brian, we made martyrs out of many a Christian crusader who attempted to storm our gates. But we have also taken them over linguistically: alfombra, almohada, alacrán... all the Spanish words that start with ‘al-’ are from Arabic. Plus ojalá’s got the word ‘Allah’ in it. ” Boabdil pantomimed a basketball free throw. “It’s like, Allah-y oop!”

“Truer words were never uttered, O True One.”

“I’m like, hey whiney Christian converts: we were the ones who ushered in a time of relative prosperity to the region. Remember algebra, chess, and garbanzo beans? Oh yeah, that was from us. Booyakasha.”

“Wiser words were never spoken, O Wise One.”

“And don't even get me started on the complex and unique hybridity of Mozarabic language, art, and culture that our presence in the Iberian Peninsula has spurred.”

“A compelling confluence of cultures indeed, O Cultured One.”

“Sorcerer B-Dog, I'm feeling good today. Screw it. You know what I think? I think today's the day that I unveil my secret to the world: I'm gonna do a thing about my Performance Art."

Alarm flashed in the Sorceror Brian al-Habib's eyes. As a member of Boabdil's inner circle, he was one of the few who had witnessed the great caliph's performance art ‘experiments’. “Master Boabdil,” he entreated, “Pardon my insolence, but... I do not think it advisable to... overwhelm the people with your gift during this time of war and strife.”

“Nonsense!” Boabdil snapped his towel at the Sorceror Brian al-Habib. “With all theChristian siege this, and poisoned water supply that going around, a little art therapy is just what this place needs. Here’s the deal: all of my courtly artisans shall give a 5 minute talk about their current projects, and I shall present on my performance art last. We shall call it a “Pecha Kucha,” in honor of my distant cousin, the Esteemed Caliph Pecha Kucha of Medina. Afterwards, we shall do a lil’ wine n' cheese reception.”

These final words were met by an enormous flash of lightning, an ominous clap of thunder, and a demonic peal of laughter from the bowels of hell. Unphased, the Great Caliph Boabdil bounded off to assemble his Powerpoint Presentation as the Sorcerer Brian al-Habib sauna-d on with dread.

That evening, under the glow of a hundred candles that threw light across a thousand tiles lining the courtly chamber, the Pecha Kucha was under way. The Fat Eunuch Jimmy Angel passed the king a note:

“OMAllah. So much mediocre art... Why? They could have gotten real jobs... made real $$$ and be living in some big house by an Olive Garden. You know they microwave their food anyway!”

Boabdil snorted and looked up. It was his turn! He triumphantly brandished his flash drive and approached the podium. A hush fell over the crowd.

"Ladies and gentlemen. Ladies and ... gentlemen... Ladies... and... gentlemen..."

Holy shit. Boabdil’s mind had gone completely blank. In a panic, he scrolled through his Powerpoint way too fast, stuttering incoherently about performance art for performance art's sake, performativity and historicity, performance art bridging boundaries...

In a flash, the audience became an angry mob; he was serving performance art jargon and no one was having it! Boabdil dropped the mic and ran away as fast as he could. Just as he reached the peak of a nearby mountain, he looked down on his beloved city. The Christian armies waiting outside the gates were invading! Boabdil’s eyes welled up with anguished tears. Suddenly, there was a rustling in some nearby bushes.

“You failed, Sonny Boy.”

“...Mom?” Boabdil didn't know that his mom had been at the Pecha Kucha; she never supported him on his artsy things! “But... performance art is still a new and controversial genre! Just give it a little time, and...”

“Nope. Granada is totally screwed. You betta weep like a woman for that which you could not defend like a man."

From that moment on, the Iberian Peninsula was returned to Christian rule, the New World was also screwed, and Boabdil was forever shunned from the world of mankind.

Read more writings by Lauren Moya Ford on her website.