Christchurch has been making news recently for its fantastic street art, but our city holds many more artistic treasures that are not so easily seen by the majority of our residents.
This week this will change! South Library is privileged to be hosting Multicultural Expressions of Islamic Art, an exhibition of items and images that belong to the multicultural Muslim community in Christchurch. The exhibition will be running from Sunday 2 April to Sunday 9 April.
The display is organised by the Canterbury Muslim Community Trust (CMCT) with support from Creative Communities NZ.
Ruqayya and Nick, a couple of the trustees from CMCT, kindly answered a few questions about the display.
How does Islamic art differ from the art forms normally seen in Christchurch?
Islamic arts are quite distinctive and they are not restricted to paintings, sculptures or even religious objects as you would expect in other traditions. The idea is that art should be incorporated into everyday life.
There is a quote that sums up this concept, basically that as ‘Islam is integral to every part of a Muslim’s life and makes it beautiful, so [too] Islamic art should be used to make the things of everyday life beautiful’ (Z. Hussain). So most of the objects we’ve included in this exhibit are items that we use to decorate our homes.
What are some of the basic concepts of Islamic art?
The basic concepts of Islamic art transcend time and space, as well as differences in language and culture, but there are also regional differences in interpretation. The Muslim community in Christchurch includes over 40 different ethnic groups so we hope to show some of that difference in diversity.
We have grouped items into four broad categories: Architectural Arts, Calligraphy and Written Arts, Textile Arts, and Decorative Arts.
Calligraphy is a major art form that is used to decorate buildings and everyday objects, but geometry and vegetal or floral patterns are also common themes. These are represented in all four of the categories.
[images supplied, copyright CMCT)
What are some of the items that will be on display? How were they selected?
To start with we didn’t really know what items people would have, so we put out a general request for anything that had special meaning for them or represented traditional arts encompassing an Islamic aesthetic. It has been really interesting to see what turned up!
We will be showcasing displays of calligraphy. We have several examples of a verse from the Qur’an produced in embroidery, wood carving, carpet and papyrus painting. There are also photographs showing Islamic designs in architecture and henna art as well as modern art.
In the display cabinets, we will group items according to their use so there will be a section on textiles with examples from Pakistan, Afghanistan and the Maldives. Also, beautifully decorated metalwork, traditional jewellery and even examples of incense burners and Arabic coffee pots, as well as many other items.
What motivated CMCT to put on this display?
Muslims are often in the news for all the wrong reasons so one of our motivations was to show a different side to Islam. We want to emphasise some of the beauty and diversity in Islam. It is also a fantastic opportunity to educate the wider public about some of the items that have meaning to us. We have prepared some posters and short descriptions to help people understand more about the objects on display.
CMCT were fortunate to obtain some funding from the Creative Communities grant which is covering the costs of setting up the exhibition. It has helped to bring the community together to collect and produce some of the items on display. We have some very talented people out there and we’ve had a lot of fun putting it all together.
The items will be on display in three main areas of South Library. Photos, paintings, calligraphy and wall hangings will be displayed along the far wall; household objects including metalwork, ceramics, textiles, personal items and religious items will be housed in the glass display window. Check out the foyer display for posters explaining more about the different categories.
Find out more about Islamic art
Don’t miss this wonderful opportunity to admire the beauty of Islamic art.