Monthly Archives: December 2012

Observations – KL Visit – Islamic Art Museum Part 11

This is another installation of the series of articles about the visit I made to the Museum of Islamic Art and Architecture in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, which I made more than a year ago.

After visiting the extensive Textile gallery, we come to a small, square shaped area which displayed the museum collection of Jewellery, made by Muslim artisans.

Understandably, the nature of Jewellery being very luxurious and thus, very expensive to obtain, more so when they are historical artifacts, the gallery are just a rather small area set between the Textile Gallery and the Arms and Armour Gallery. When it is rather a small collection, it is no less important than the rest.

It is a known fact that many of the finest gemstones and subsequently, jeweleries came from the Islamic lands. Koh-i-Noor and the Darya-ye Noor, two of the largest diamonds in the world, came from India, which strengthens that fact. gemstones such as diamonds, rubies and emeralds, and semi-precious stones such as lapis lazuli were favoured by the elite Islamic communities, and made them into jewelries. The most finest of them would be made by the skillful artisans in India. these would be the ‘exclusive’ types of jewelry. In this gallery, you would also find tribal jewelries that were obtained from Morocco to China, with different stones such as Agates and Carnelian, set in silver. This, according to the Museum, would be known as the ‘Ethnic’ type of jewelry.

In all honesty, I was not very ecstatic about this collection – My untrained eye still sees them as nothing but Jewelery ; nothing that ties them to the Islamic traditions apart from the fact that they were made by Islamic artisans (Islam, by the way, does not encourage such extravagant luxury). However, looking at some of the tribal jeweleries, which usually in the form of crowns, necklaces, earrings, anklets and others, I can imagine them being worn at important, perhaps religious events – A collection of coins strung into a necklace, given by a mother to her daughter, the crown being worn by the bride over her veil on her wedding day, A golden bracelet, a gift from a husband to his wife… In the end, it was not really the extravagance and the materials or the beauty that mattered, but the history behind each piece, the story is what mattered.

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A very large (and, I can image, very heavy) necklace of emerald and pearls, set into gold.

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A crown of red coloured stone, probably carnelian or maybe red glass, with Central Asian designs. This is clearly a part of a tribal costume.

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Another crown dripping with antique coins. Crowns in this gallery are not that of Royal kind, but mostly they were the ones worn for ceremonies or celebrations.

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A jewelery set, made with red coloured stones set in silver, decorated with leaf-shaped silver medallions. I did not, unfortunately, paid attention to the placard but I assumed it is another (very heavy looking) headdress.

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Observation – Square Kufic and its Modern Day Usage

A few weeks ago (or rather, last month) I mentioned something about the Islamic/Arabic/Moroccan/Indian aesthetic being introduced into Modern designs, and I had mention about the Kufi script, one of the oldest script in the writing of the Arabic language (or any language that uses the Arabic letters, for example Persian, Urdu or Malay Jawi) enjoying some sort of revival and being utilized as a modern interpretation of the Arabic script for logos of companies in the Arab states. It is now, in my opinion, quite widespread in its usage, both for the secular and religious.

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A selection of logos utilizing the Kufic script, in different forms. Courtesy of citareka.com

But first, lets have a look on a short description and history of the Kufic script – even though, I know, I had posted this before. Kufi is, as I said, the oldest calligraphic form of the Arabic script. It is a modified form of the old Nabatean script  and named after the city of Kufa in modern day Iraq. The first copies of the Islamic holy scripture, the Al Qur’an were written using this script. The style differs from area to area for example, the North African and Andalusian Kufic were flowery and ornate, but the original, line-utilizing script that were founded in Iraq and Iran were used today to make Square Kufi designs and logos. traditionally, in Iran Square Kufi, that is, Kufi script that were written in a square form instead of linear were made into a pattern and used as a form of decoration. This technique is called Banna’i, and usually spells names such as Allah, Muhammad or Ali.

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A minaret in the Mosque in Isfahan covered with the square Kufi script of Muhammad and Ali

I think the reason the Square Kufic’s revival is because of the clean, simple lines of the script, that seemingly matches the Modern aesthetic of today. The Arabic script were often associated with curvy alphabets and the Kufi script, especially in its original form, is an exact opposite of that.

Last month I got the chance to join a group Friends of Square Kufi (which, by the way, in my opinion, unfortunately abbreviated into…FokS) by invitation from my old friend on Facebook. I play a rather passive role in the group – observing and learning through other people’s mistakes who submit their works there. I was rather intimidated to submit mine because I am still not very sure about my work and I still need to learn more. Unfortunately, even though the script looks simple, there are quite some number of rules to learn and obey…

But I still experiment, and I started out by spelling out my name and making it square. In the end, I have this! Unfortunately it apparently as noted by my inviting friend, still have a number of mistakes…as I said, lots of rules to obey. It spells out from the bottom right corner Muhammad Azim, my full given name.

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And I am thinking about designing Square Kufic logo for this blog and the Facebook page. But I am still thinking…should I design around the’ Arabicized’ spelling of Stars in Symmetry, or an Arabic translation?

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Happy Third Anniversary Stars in Symmetry!

I did not realize it at all till I clicked on a lit-up,orange coloured cup/trophy/chalice shape button on the upper right hand side of my admin dashboard screen, and saw this :

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Oh God, how could I forget? It is the blog’s third birthday! I actually started this blog three – THREE – years ago. Might be a small number but again, three years. I kept thinking, if I was to be married then and had a child, that kid would be running around my house now and and started learning to talk. Or if I took up a car  loan, I would be almost halfway from fully paying it, but the car would already be beaten down. But I did not.

I may not did those things, but in these three years certainly there were lots of things happening, both in my digital and real life.Things that changed my life, for better or for worse. As  friends and loved ones come and go, as happiness and sorrow felt, the blog grew on. I got invited to seminars and lectures on Islamic designs, I went to places where the subject mattered, saw exclusive screenings and previews, and above all, getting to know more about my religion and my culture, our traditional art that we inherited from generation to generation, getting to intimately know more about those graceful arabesques, the glorious geometric designs, the illustrious calligraphy, the proud architecture . The Islamic art. The Islamic culture. The Islamic tradition. The Islamic heritage.

It has been a great journey, and yet I barely scratched the surface. Three years on, and I am still curious and passionate about Islamic art and architecture as I was then. Here’s hoping for another year and more of discovery and enlightenment.

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Observation – Modern Moroccan Interior Designs

Some weeks ago I was rambling about the take on today’s society on the Islamic -or rather, the Arabian/Moroccan/Indian aesthetics. As soon as I posted the article on the blog, I get these random Modern interior design articles and pictures with some sort of Moroccan flair to them everywhere ; on Facebook, Google, blogs that I am following and reading. But it was all pretty much random or just very little influence of the so called Modern  Moroccan style I ended up uninterested and ignoring them…

So a few days ago I was browsing through Facebook and sure enough another series of pictures about this style pops up ; this time, it is in the form of an album in a Facebook Page. I was reading the authors comment about where he obtained the pictures (he got it from a magazine he got in his mail) and his views about the theme which incidentally was one of the 2012 Home Fashion Trends for the summer. On the album there was a website link that leads to a furniture shop and subsequently the style inspiration page.

The style I found on the site uses quite a number of Moroccan elements such as hammered lights, the intricate wallpaper and patterned fabrics, bright, pops of exotic colours as well as furniture influenced by the forms of the traditional ones. (clicking on the pics will get you to the site. All pictures are property of highfashionhome.com)

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Modern Moroccan styles are apparently fashionable of late, though it was quite a a loose term my opinion. Forget the dreamy, exotic, colour heavy Casbahs and Riads in the city of Fez and Marrakesh, for perhaps that would pop into your mind with the mention of ‘Moroccan’. Interior designers took some  elements of the traditional Moroccan or Arabian design and brought them into Modern styles. This mostly means taking a pattern such as the Zellige tiles, although due to the adherence to Modern style which is usually minimalistic, the patterns were heavily edited and simplified, to be used for curtains and fabric for the upholstery. They also took some kind or furniture or accessories mostly found in the traditional Moroccan Decor for example a hammered iron or copper antique lamp, or an octagonal side table (simplified as well, abandoning the heavily painted look), or perhaps an ottoman pouf. Though sometimes, one can note that the designers are pretty much loose on the definition of Moroccan style – get some ethnic, exotic elements into a theme and slap a Moroccan label on it – even if that particular ethnic, exotic element had nothing to do with Morocco or Arab art at all!

They also sometimes use traditional Islamic art patterns for wallpapers, which, in my opinion, would make the style look more faithful to the namesake. Again, though, they were simplified, for the sake of keeping it minimalistic and modern, usually into solid pattern forms such as the eight-pointed stars, instead of those amazingly intricate designs we see, known and loved.

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To be honest, I do like the style, I like the play on both the traditional and modern elements but however I am not looking forward to it because it somehow disregard the real beauty of the traditional art…unless it has a real authentic pattern off an Islamic art that would garner my interest! What do you think?

 

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