Monthly Archives: June 2012

Islamic Art : Mirror of the Invisible World

A few days ago, I received an email regarding a new film or documentary that is going to be shown soon on PBS, and I got the privilege of access to the preview before the debut. It is an exciting thing especially considering the film is about Islamic art and architecture, one of which that I am sure my readers would be very interested to see. Below is the news release of the film included in the said email –

SILVER SPRING, MD – June 11, 2012 – Perceptions and ideas around Muslim identity and culture vary widely and too few are aware of the significant works of art and architecture that make up a large part of Islamic civilization’s legacy. Islamic Art: Mirror of the Invisible World, is a new documentary from award-winning Unity Productions Foundation (UPF) that brings to life this legacy and will be broadcast nationally on PBS July 6th at 9:00 p.m. EST.

Narrated by actor, Susan Sarandon, this 90-minute film takes audiences on a global journey across nine countries and over 1,400 years ofhistory to present the stories behind the masterworks of Islamic art and architecture.

Islamic Art: Mirror of the Invisible World is the ninth film by Executive Producers Michael Wolfe and Alex Kronemer and UPF (Muhammad: Legacy of a Prophet, Cities of Light: The Rise and Fall of Islamic Spain, Prince Among Slaves). The film was produced to nurture a greater appreciation for the exquisite works of art that Islamic culture has contributed to humanity. “I believe all viewers, Muslim and non-Muslims alike, will bepleasantly surprised with what our film uncovers,” states Alex Kronemer. “As a window into an often misunderstood culture, this film has the ability to be a real catalyst for understanding and perhaps offer a new perspective on Islam’s values, culture and lasting legacy,” continues Kronemer.

The film will air on PBS as part of the new PBS Arts Summer Festival, a multi-part weekly series that will take viewers across the country and around the world.

Viewers of Islamic Art are presented with a kaleidoscope of exquisite works of art – from the opulent Taj Mahal of Agra, India, to the written word in the form of Arabic calligraphy with master calligraphers such as MohamedZakariya. A common theme linking each of the showcased works is the way each piece of art is so different from the next – exemplifying not only the beauty, but the diversity within Islamic cultures. Each masterpiece is a contribution to the larger narrative of just how much Muslims have contributed and still contribute to society.

Michael Wolfe says, “Never before have viewers had the opportunity to explore such richness of Islamic art and history with commentary from some of the world’s most renowned experts who have the ability to explain just why these works are so important.”  “We hope watching the film will result in Muslims feeling a source of pride, aswell as celebration in their heritage,” continues Kronemer.

After its national television debut July 6th, Islamic Art will be available on DVD for $19.95 through http://www.upf.tv.

Islamic Art has already caught the attention of thought leaders who are calling the film an important contribution to documentary filmmaking about Islamic cultures.

“UPF’s Islamic Art: Mirror of the Invisible World is a stunning achievement in documentary filmmaking. Itopens a window onto a sight of Islam so often neglected in the west. The aesthetic, beauty, and culture offer an opening for us all to start a dialogue on the values that we share and hold in common.”  – Karen Armstrong, Award-Winning author of religion

“This film will open the eyes and the imagination of American Muslims, reminding us all of our rich artistic heritage. I highly recommend that all American Muslims watch this documentary and share it with their neighbors!” – Imam Mohamed Magid, President, Islamic Society of North America

Join us on Twitter at @islamicartfilm the evening of the premiere, July 6th, for a tweet chat using the hashtag #IslamicArt.

About Unity Productions Foundation

The mission of Unity Productions Foundation (UPF) is to create peace through the media. A nonprofit organization founded in 1999, UPF produces documentary films for both television broadcast, online viewing, and theatrical release, and implements long-term educational campaigns aimed at increasing understanding between people of different faiths and cultures, especially between Muslims and other faiths. For more information, visit http://www.upf.tv.

I replied to the email immediately and soon enough I got the access to the film. Despite my unstable and slow connection, I managed to watch the whole documentary ; in fact, I watched it several times.

The 90 minute film/documentary takes us to an awe-inspiring journey  across 9 countries and a thousand and a half years of history to look at some of the most magnificent and breathtaking examples of Islamic art and Architecture. The film, as I see it, intends to introduce the views to the the beauty and majesty as well as the diversity of Islamic art, culture and traditions by showcasing the finest examples of Islamic artifacts and monuments.

The documentary is divided into several chapters, each with a different theme or aspect of Islamic art and architecture. Throughout the documentary, which is narrated by Susan Sarandon,  you can listen to commentaries by several notable experts of the field, who explains the many facets of Islamic artistry.  One can learn so many things from this film – the history of the culture and traditions of Islam, the techniques, the skills and work that was put into the artifacts and the monuments.

It also invites the viewers to see the diversity of the Islamic culture throughout the Islamic world – how different art and architecture might be for example between the lavish monuments in the Arab countries as compared to the simpler architecture of the Sub-Saharan countries. Yet, despite that it draws the comparison between the different regions of the the Islamic World it also explains how all of them collectively are exclusively Islamic.

This documentary also gave the audience different views on Islamic art as well as dispelling several misconceptions. By watching it, one can obtain a brief yet insightful view into the Islamic culture and heritage, through the beauty of its art and architecture, in turn, giving his or herself an education about the religion itself.

If you are like me, and I imagine that you are, you would not want to miss this beautiful documentary, whether you are a long time aficionado or you just began to appreciate the beauty of the Islamic art. So if you are a reader n the United States, please tune in to PBS on 6th of July at 9:00 p.m. EST. For the rest of the world, you will have to wait after the debut to be able to purchase the DVD version of the film. Either way, this documentary is again is not to be missed.

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Observations – KL Visit – Islamic Art Museum part 4

The internet here in Brunei is still pretty problematic, so I am writing this articles in stages – I will add the images later and typing the article beforehand as it would be more practical. For your information, I am writing this in the middle of the night while watching the EURO football match of England vs. France and the connection is simply pathetic.

Next in the series of articles on my visit to the Islamic Art Museum in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia is the Indian Gallery post. The gallery is pretty much just next to the China Gallery and somewhat across the Malay World Gallery. The Indian exhibition were small-ish compared to the China and Malay World galleries – it looks like it is put in some sort of a niche or a corner, flanked by walls featuring Jaalis (more on that later). However, the collection is not as small as it features many artifacts from the Central Asian region from glorious stone carvings to delicate fabrics and embroideries to intricately decorated weapons and armours. The artifacts, like many other displays in the museum, are encased in glass.

The Stone Jaali

From the Malay World Gallery (and just in front of the China Gallery) you are greeted by a redstone latticework mainly found in Pakistan and India called Jaali. This one Jalli window with a smaller window in the middle of it evokes the imagery of the Red Fort in Delhi, India.It has grooved arches unlike Persian or Middle Eastern arches – an apparent influence from the Hindu architecture of India. The stone latticework is surrounded by intricate floral carving and the ubiquitous eight-pointed star motif.

One of the Miniature Painting exhibited inside the Gallery

Inside the gallery-niche you would find many artifacts as I mentioned before. Some were weapons and armors (I still remember this lance or spear, perhaps ornamental weapon, with a fluffy white hair-like object near the blade of the spear, displayed prominently in the middle of the gallery) and many were miniatures, such as this one. The miniature are similar to the  Persian ones, although newer ones, from the Mughal empire, are distinctly Indian, with a more realistic facial features and different art style – perhaps an influence from the Renaissance paintings?

A pair of calligraphic Tile

Apart form weapons and armors and miniatures there were also painted this. This particular ones, I can imagine could be one taken from the Wazir Khan Mosque, as it is painted in such a way very similar to the ones used in that mosque. It is different than the Middle Eastern calligraphy tiles particularly due to the techniques and colours employed. The tiles were painted warm colours of yellow and brown, and unlike the Middle Eastern ones, which has calligraphy perfectly painted on,the calligraphy on these tiles were somehow made without any calculations or guidelines.

A brightly coloured Islamic tapestry

On one wall there is this display of tapestries, fabrics and embroideries framed and hung. This one is the largest and, like the hairy spear, displayed prominently in the middle of the wall. Again, the colour preferred are warm colours and for this piece, a bright, sunny yellow was used. I didn’t remember if it was merely painted or embroidered but there is a line of calligraphy in the middle of the cloth in green. Around the calligraphy are flower medallions although I am not sure either whether it is painted or embroidered.

Stone Jharokha sculpture

Upon exiting the exhibition, overlooking the stairs is an elaborate stone sculpture of a pavillion. If I remember well, this is called a Jharoka, a particularly exclusive feature of the Mughal Architecture. The Jharokha essentially serves the similar purpose like the Mashrabiya though in Jharokha’s case, it is made of stone instead of wood and thus much heavier. It is also often decorated with Jaali so women in Purdah could conceal their identities whilst looking from the Jharokha.

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Internet Finds – Islamic Arts and Architecture website

There’s too much things troubling my heart and mind right now and it has been going on quite a while now,  but it seems like blogging releases a bit of that stress. So enough with the personal things and now I am here to post another article about a very informative website on Islamic art and architecture you might be interested to visit.

Islamic-arts.org is a very extensive and informative website on Islamic art and architecture, written by a team of authors including writers from established museums around the world, on various subjects within Islamic arts and architecture that ranges from mosque architecture and decoration to glass craftsmanship and everything in between.

The website interface, although initially might be confusing for some, offer articles sorted into a number of categories such as Architecture, Art, Collections etc. Articles were also sorted by date posted as well as popular posts and a ticker that shows random articles. Viewer can easily read articles that they want from the homepage of the website.

The articles were, as you might expect, expertly written. They were enjoyable reads whether it touches the subjects of Islamic art or experiences and stories from the writers. Obviously, this website is a far cry from my blog – the website is full of information from specialists of the field, backed up by references which, obviously, I don’t have access to.

The website also features many, many high res photos and  illustrations that includes oriental paintings and study maps. While you are not reading the articles you will enjoy the many pictures offered on each article. Some of the pictures were high res enough to be made into your desktop wallpaper!

If you have a very deep interest in Islamic art and architecture you will not want to skip this website.

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Internet Finds – Islamic Culture – Geometry Video

the internet here in Brunei is simply infuriating. Last night getting my posts through is a struggle – I was up until around 3am until I gave up and shut down my laptop Now the connection has gotten slightly better, I take the chance to post at least one thing that I wanted to last night before the connection worsen again.

I am a member of a particular group about Islamic art in Facebook and of course, many of the posts there are simply inspiration, like this video –

And again, strangely enough the video appears to be just a link. Please click on the link, I promise you it is worth half a minute of the whole video.

The video is simply showing the construction of an eight-pointed star and its variation. It is simple, fascinating video that shows the steps taken mathematically to build the ubiquitous eight pointed star so common in the Islamic art and architecture

UPDATE – So the video finally shows! Saves my readers from clicking the link LOL

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Miscellaneous Post – 14k+ Views!

I haven’t had much time for the blog these past few weeks but once I do, I am pretty surprised to look at the blog’s stats – last month the blog received more than 14,000 views! A new record for the blog LOL. I am sure many of you accomplished bloggers would think “Pah, my blog gets that number of views every single day!” But then sir/madam, I am very new to this blogging scene, so it is to me, quite an accomplishment!

The surprising stats!

Looking at the blog now and looking back to the day I first started, it feels like I am nurturing a baby – it’s a hard work and it is slowly growing, but there is a sense of accomplishment seeing it grew well. I am now aiming to blog more as I get more time but as you would probably know, most of my time are taken by the demands of my day work. Here’s hoping for the best for many years to come.

Expect more posts about my visit to the KL Islamic museum, and a few articles on what i found looking around the internet and my own research, as well as my own Islamic art projects and perhaps some book reviews!

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