Inference and Design in Kuba and Zillij Art with Shape Grammars

Ramgopal Rajagopalan, Eric Hortop, Dania El-Khechen, Cheryl Kolak Dudek, Lydia Sharman, Fred Szabo, Thomas Fevens and Sudhir Mudhur
Bridges London: Mathematics, Music, Art, Architecture, Culture (2006)
Pages 419–428


We present a simple method for structural inference in African Kuba cloth, and Moorish zillij mosaics. Our work is based on Stiny and Gips’ formulation of “Shape Grammars”. It provides art scholars and geometers with a simple yet powerful medium to perform analysis of existing art and draw inspiration for new designs. The analysis involves studying an artwork and capturing its structure as simple shape grammar rules. We then show how interesting families of artworks could be generated using simple variations in their corresponding grammars.