In his introduction Bram de Does draws a comparison between himself and J.J. Voskuil, author of Het Bureau. Voskuil created an alter ego for himself and in seven cathartically fat volumes came to terms with his working life. De Does created his Kaba ornament, and from then on had at his disposal a form that could be used to create a virtually infinite number of figures. These he would sketch on squared paper before embarking on the daily grind. Therapeutic, perhaps, but at the same time a simple piece of research. The handwritten approach in turn created the right craft ambience that using a computer would have lost.
The incredible thing is that all these figures – there must be thousands of them – have been created from a single ornament and its mirror image. The basic shape is a cube (hence the name: kaba means cube in Arabic).
The book is five hundred pages long. A large part of this is taken up with sketches done over the years, printed here at 75% of actual size with the squares on the original paper removed by over-exposing them. The coarse paper used for the book underlines the sketchy nature of the figures. Dark brown has been chosen as the base colour, but sometimes other colours have been used, creating a completely different impression.
The ornament has been put to particularly elegant application on the endpapers, where one figure slides kaleidoscopically and imperceptibly into the next. Amazing what can be achieved with a single small shape. We remain fascinated.