Observations – KL Visit – Islamic Art Museum Part 6

I am thinking , since I am traveling around quite often these days, to make this type of article a feature on this blog – my visits to various types of Islamic landmarks, Mosques and Museums and such. I will keep pondering about this subject, in the meantime, this is the next part of my KL Visit series of articles.

Moving on from the Qur’an and Manuscript gallery, you will find an intriguing U-shaped hall (the hall wraps around one of the elevators, reaching from the Qur’an Gallery to the China Gallery, the first one that we visited) that hosts the Architecture Gallery. This, apart from the Qur’an and Manuscript gallery, is easily my favourite gallery. As the name suggests, the gallery showcases the Architecture of Islam from all over the world, both external architecture as well as the interior design. This Gallery features a number of faithfully recreated models of mosques from all around the world, including the two Holy Mosques of Mecca and Medina, a tall throne-like Minbar, a Syrian marble fountain and interiors of a Mosque and a residential room.

My parents linger quite a while in this gallery (I think they were looking for a model of a local Mosque, or mesmerized by the Masjidil Haram of Mecca model) so I had some time to look around the hall. Although, this is where my camera battery died (Thank you Sony Ericcson!) so I had to use my sub-par iPod camera. Better than nothing I guess!

One of the interiors on display

This is one of the recreated interiors in the gallery. You cannot enter the room, but you can admire it from the doorway. The decoration is Syrian, as the gallery noted.

Marble fountain in the middle of the gallery

The Fountain in the middle of the Hall. I am pretty sure that this particular fountain came from Syria, since the pattern of the Geometric designs are quite unique to the region.

One of the models

A model of a wooden mosque in Thailand. I think I had an article featuring this mosque. You can see the very traditional southern Thai architecture here, but used for a religious building.

A model of the Holy Mosque of Mecca

A Model of the Masjidil Haram in Mecca, with the Kaabah in the center. My parents linger on this model for a few minutes, perhaps it reminds them of their Haj trip 14 years ago. When I see the look on their faces when they examine the model, I prayed that I can have the chance to bring them to another trip there…aamin

The Dome of the Rock

A model recreation of the Dome of the Rock in Jerusalem,  Palestine. Considering that my country prohibits entrance into Israel, this is the closest I could get to the third holiest site in the Muslim World….

Model of The Prophet’s Mosque of Medina

The Model of the Masjidin Nabawi in Medina. This particular model is very, very large one and very detailed. In the middle you can see the raised conical umbrellas, where in the real life mosque it is referred to as the Raudhah – a place between the Prophet’s house (now his tomb, just under that green dome) and his mosque.

A model of a Chinese Mosque

A model of a mosque in China at the Gallery. I am not sure which mosque this model is (I didn’t find the note) but it could be the oldest mosque in China, the Huaisheng mosque, or the Great Mosque of Xi’an – the latter is more likely

Model of the Ummayad Mosque

A model of the Great Mosque of Damascus, or the Ummayad Mosque, in Damascus, Syria. I liked how detailed this model looks, down to the mosaics of the facade of the mosque, and its multiple minarets.

A recreated Minbar

A wooden recreated Minbar with a seat on top of it. I think it is from a Central Asian country, possibly Iran. I just realized that the patterns decorating the Minbar is very odd and irregular, particularly the pattern for the back of the seat.

Ramadhan Kareem!

It has been Ramadhan here in Brunei for a week already (today it the 7th) so I don’t its too late to greet you a Happy Ramadhan! I was not feeling well since early last week, so I didn’t post anything for a while. But thankfully, I was still able to do my fasting well till today and hopefully for the rest of the Holy month. The office was very hectic almost everyday so I didn’t have much spare time to do anything else, and now I have a bit of time to post something.

I will be posting a few articles here and there so keep on reading!

Observations – KL Visit – Islamic Art Museum part 5

Continuing my last post, this is another installment of my series of articles of my visit to Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia last year with my family.

Just across the India Gallery, past the stone Jharokha sculpture, is another gallery, which now focuses on a theme that is close to any good Muslim – the Al Qur’an. The book, revealed almost a thousand and five hundred years ago by Allah to His prophet, Muhammad (Peace be Upon Him) is an enduring inspiration to Muslims right from the revelation to the present. This gallery showcases some of the best samples of illuminated Al Qur’an,  as well as few select manuscripts collected from all around the Islamic world.

The gallery is notably larger than the first three galleries we had visited – it is like both China and the Malay World galleries combined. The artifacts were placed around a large hall in glass cabinets and against the walls. Similar to the Malay World Gallery, the gallery hall is decorated with an ornamental dome.

One of the Al Qur’an on display at the Qur’an and Manuscript Gallery

My parents were buzzing from one display to another quickly I didn’t had much time to spend on the manuscripts individually. Understandably, they weren’t as interested much as I did, because perhaps the very idea of art in any form is quite alien for them. I was making ooh and aahs sounds quite audibly, aided by the domed space of the hall. I never seen illuminated manuscripts on display in one place before in my life!

Another Al Qur’an on display in the Gallery

Many, if not all of the manuscripts, are illuminated, meaning they are decorated with gold. Each of them glimmering in the soft lights that illuminates the decorated dome above. Richly decorated pages of the Qur’an are displayed around the gallery, each with unique patterns and arabesques and painted with reds and blues. Most of them are propped open on the first pages of the Qur’an, on the first Sura or chapter, the Al Fathihah.

A heavily illuminated Qur’an on display, showing the first Sura or chapter of the book, Al Fatihah.

The Qur’an is an object of devotion for Muslims – they read it to learn the wisdom of God, for they believe it is the very word of God himself. Hence, the most important art form in the Islamic world is the art of Calligraphy, of beautiful handwriting,  for copying the words of the Divine.

 ‘God is Beautiful, and He loves beauty’ thus, beautifying the writing, and making Qur’an a beautiful object with illumination, it is also another form of devotion.

An illuminated manuscript showing the plan of the Great Mosque in Mecca.

There were also many manuscripts being displayed other than Al Qur’an. Some are illuminated with gold, some have figures and diagrams on them. As I said before, I didn’t have much time to study each of them because my parents were jumping from one display to another very quickly. However, I can see some of them were prayer books, instructions and guides to do certain prayers such as the Haj, as well as books on religious subjects such as Fiqh  (Islamic Law).

Light blue ornamental dome above the gallery hall

And again, all of the displays were under a beautiful decorated dome, similar to the Malay World Gallery, but on the opposite end of the colour spectrum – while the Malay World galley have warm amber coloured dome, the Qur’an and Manuscript gallery features a soothing calm light blue dome.

Internet Finds – InspirARTion

Someone who is in a group that I am in on Facebook pointed out about this particular website that offers a paint-like program online. It is interesting (and I had been playing it around for days now) because it might be used for Islamic Geometric art.

Interface of InspirARTion website. Please click on the picture to visit the site

The website is some sort of online Photoshop program…albeit a rather compact and simpler one. It is complete with a set of brushes ranging from solid lines to a feathered effect brush, a range of customizable colours both for the brush and background and the brushes are resizable as well, although only three different setting. The options, as I had said, were akin to a compact Photoshop or Paint-type program. But, another option makes this online app interesting.

The Symmetry option in the program adds a whole spectrum of possibilities and even enables one to effortlessly create an Islamic geometric artwork. The Symmetry option allows you to choose between Horizontal, Vertical or Kaleidoscope (two diagonal lines crossing each other) symmetries, or you can choose to combine them. Drawing a line in one point of the canvas will draw another according to your Symmetry options. With these settings in place, you can create amazing symmetrical mandalas in monochromatic scheme or as colourful as your heart desires.

As for creating Islamic-type art with this program, you can create geometric designs very easily, as long as you have steady hands! you can recreate six-pointed stars pattern with the horizontal and vertical symmetry lines and eight pointed stars can be made with the Kaleidoscope option.  The lines won’t be as straight as you might with a set of ruler on a  piece of paper, but it saves you from using a set of compass! But with patience you can create flourishing works of Islamic art effortlessly in a short time .

Check out my work! I am sure that you can do a lot better art than my, so play around!