Aladdin: The original story about a Chinese boy and a Djinn, told in French by a Syrian in 1688, turned into a Disney Bollywood film in 2019.

I was on the internet.

People on Youtube was arguing over whether Aladdin was Indian or Arabic or Persian. The new Aladdin movie apparently looked too Bollywood to some people. Cue the comments full of people ignorant of ancient global trade, the silk road, or the true origins of Aladdin.

I had to dive in and give my two cents.

I present the following:


1) Aladdin was not part of the 1001 nights, nor was it an Arabic folk story. The story first appeared in the french translations of the 1001 nights by Antoine Galland*, but was added by the translator from a story he heard from Hanna Dayib.

Contemporary Historians now consider Hanna Dayib (1688) to be the true author of Aladdin, and that Aladdin was an original work and a metaphorical semi-autobiography. Hanna Dayib’s autobiography, discovered in 1993, was one of the definitive evidence of this man’s existence outside of Antoine Galland’s diary.

Suffice to say, if Dayib was alive today, he would be one of the most celebrated storytellers and authors alive, given his massive portfolio of stories, including the likes of Alibaba. Any supposedly “authentic” Aladdin manuscripts in Arabic that cropped up later were proven to be black translations, or forgeries translated from the written French back into Arabic.

Incidentally, any stories, including Aladdin, that Hanna Diyab told to Galland was not credited. Diyab worked as a cloth merchant after he returned from France. Ah, rich Europeans stealing from the poor foreigners. That happens a lot.

2) Aladdin was nominally a Chinese boy in China, but because Hanna Dayib knew little of China, for all intents and purposes, the setting was Arabic. The Emperor of China was called a Sultan instead of an Emperor, for example.


3) In the newest Disney live action adaptation of Aladdin (2019), people have noted the multicultural (specifically Indian) influences in a supposedly Arabic setting. That’s fair.

However, in real life, it does makes sense for ancient Arabic/Iranian cultures to have significant contact with India, and be multicultural.

The three ancient metropolises (each sporting a population of a million people) were Constantinople (Eastern Rome), Baghdad (Abassid Caliphate), and Chang’an (Tang China). Before Baghdad was built, the main metropolis of the area was the ancient Persian Capital of Seleucia-Ctesiphon.

And between them was the entire global economy of the ancient world via the Silk Road which begin at the Gates of Chang’an, or so the saying goes.

Furthermore,  both the Umayyad and Abbasid Caliphates controlled parts of India, and later on, the Mughal Dynasty.

Therefore, Agrabah having cosmopolitan influences is sensible.

The 2019 Aladdin does have some lyrical changes to accommodate our more modern understanding of other cultures however.

“Oh, imagine a land, it’s a faraway place
Where the caravan camels roam
Where you wander among every culture and tongue
It’s chaotic, but hey, it’s home”
—  Aladdin 2019.

Contrasted to:

“Where they cut off your ear if they don’t like your face
It’s barbaric, but hey, it’s home
Where it’s flat and immense and the heat is intense
It’s barbaric, but hey, it’s home”
— Aladdin 1992

On the validity of collage art, found art, matte paintings, etc

So, I asked this interesting question on Reddit, mostly to assuage my own doubts and feelings of fraudulence with regards to art projects that didn’t strictly involve me painting literally every pixel (yes, I realized that many creatives have experienced the Imposter Syndrome, but this intellectual understanding didn’t necessarily help me with dealing with it in an emotional, subjective way).

Before we begin in earnest however, first, let’s get some elaboration on the arts referenced in the title.

Collage Art: Bashing different elements (that are often not made by you) together to create a composition.

Found Art: For example, a toilet turned into a fountain. Or just tipped over.

Matte Paintings: An old technique where painting is applied to film strips in order to add elements that weren’t filmed by the camera (ie, painting a Sphinx on a desert). These days, mean any kind of digital environment creation, where some artists would photo-bash a layer that they paint over, or construct a 3D model to paint over, etc. Or just slap 3D models AS the background. Whatever saves time, since this kind of painting is mostly used in applied arts where production must be timely.

My Question on Reddit:

Alright, so recently, I’ve been exploring digital paintings, and that’s been a lot of fun. I’ve been learning a lot of the foundational principles to digital paintings and am making tremendous progress.

However, I also want to explore side projects that involves transforming public domain photos and artworks into new forms. However, these kinds of project feels instinctively strange to me for many reasons, mostly because it doesn’t feel entirely like real art. I know that collage, found art, etc are considered valid art forms, and that concept artists often use matte painting techniques or incorporate 3D models and existing photos into their work…but even so, I would like the public’s opinions.

The kind of projects I want to explore: I want to take existing public domain photos and paint over them to create sci-fi/fantasy environments. I also want to take classical paintings and paint over it/modify it to create something new. And of course collage art could be very interesting.

What are your opinions about such works of art?

And the (somewhat few) folks on that particular SubReddit have this to say—


Not all art is good, but all art is art. Even satirically creating found art is art in its own way. When I see art that really makes me question its validity as art, I quickly realize that the piece is making me think and I usually come to the conclusion that it’s certainly art simply based on that alone.


There’s someone who paints over Pokémon cards, and they’re amazing!

I’m not a visual artist, but I view it as analogous to fan fiction. With fan fiction, you’re taking someone else’s content, transforming it and making it your own. I feel like it’s similar to the art you want to explore


It’s still art. Tracing another image is questionable when you’re just making a painting, but if it’s a collage I feel like the rules are out the window.

These comments actually do help assuage my doubts, and I had expected comments along these lines; mostly because these comments are what would have said if I had to respond to my own question.

On a related note, a lot of folks often claimed that digital art or digital painting don’t constitute “real” art, when in fact digital paintings are exactly like perfectly ordinary physical paintings in terms of the actual painting process (differing for medium).

This article talked about this bias, but it also pointed out something quite interesting: We digital painters also like to accuse artists who practices photo-bashing and collage art of doing “fake art”. Hmmmm. I admit, I do often see it as a “lesser” art form, even though the difficulty of doing collage art well is beyond me, generally. And of course, found art/erasure art gets accused of this as well, along with things like blackout poetry/found poetry.

Now, below is an example of something I did, to experiment with my idea to transform classical paintings into a different form:

Cardinal de Richelieu (1642) by Philippe de Champaignecardinal_de_richelieu_mg_0053

And my experimental transformation of it. Painted over by me.


The rationale here was that Cardinal Richelieu (“The Red Eminence”) was a figure that had caused significant bloodshed with his participation and role in the European Wars of Religion (the 17th century). In all fairness he was a product of his time, and I actually admire him as a Statesman, however with a monicker like “The Red Eminence”, and due to his noble bearing, sheer charisma, and political acumen; I have always though of him as a kind of supernatural creature (like Count Dracula). Therefore, this transformative work was about revealing a supernatural version of the Cardinal. 

This is nowhere close to the level of detail I wished to create, but would you consider something like the above to be valid art?

Comment below!

PS: Yes, I missed a day of the Daily Logo Challenge. Don’t you worry, I’ll make up for it.