Color in Islamic Art and Culture


From the conference website:

The Hamad bin Khalifa Symposium on Islamic Art, organized by Sheila S. Blair and Jonathan M. Bloom, is a leading international conference on Islamic art and culture. It is co-sponsored by Virginia Commonwealth University School of the Arts, VCUQatar and the Qatar Foundation. Previous symposia were held in Richmond, Virginia in 2004 and in Doha, Qatar in 2007. The third biennial symposium, And Diverse Are Their Hues: Color in Islamic Art and Culture, will be held in Córdoba, Spain, November 2-4, 2009.

For those of you interested in studying Islamic Art in more detail and depth, the Hamad Bin Khalifa Symposium on Islamic Art offers a great chance to interact with scholars and artists in the field. Register now!

Deir Mar Musa calligraphy

Author’s update: The same day I wrote this post, I received the magazine National Geographic in the mail. A photograph of Deir Mar Musa was featured on the cover! Read more at National Geographic.

Mar Musa

Deir Mar Musa is a desert monastery in Syria. It was named after Saint Moses the Abyssinian, and is notable for its remote mountain location overlooking a desert valley. The monastery was founded in the mid-sixth century A.D. by the Syrian Antiochan Rite. The frescoes in the church date to the 11th and 12th centuries. In the first part of the 18th century, the monastery was abandoned and remained so until 1984.

In 1984, restoration work began through a common initiative of the Syrian state, local churches and a group of Arab and European volunteers. Today an Italian priest named Father Paulo leads the ecumenical group of nuns and monks who live and work at the monastery. Their work focuses on inter-cultural and inter-faith dialogue and sustainable agriculture, among other things.

The monastery is a place designed for reflection, and it extends hospitality to all who wish to remain there, on the conditional that they partake in the community’s work. I had the opportunity to visit Deir Mar Musa in April 2006, and was particularly taken by a piece of calligraphy hanging in the chapel. It says, “In the name of God, the merciful, the compassionate,” and reflects this community’s desire for peaceful religious co-existence in the Middle East.

Deir Mar Musa Chapel


Calligraphy museums spring up in the gulf

Several museums featuring Arabic script calligraphy have opened in the last few years, highlighting a growing worldwide interest in this art form.

The Tareq Rajab Museum of Islamic Calligraphy in Kuwait opened on March 14, 2007. According to the museum website, “its aim is to trace the development of the Arabic script.” The collection belongs to Tareq Sayed Rajab (former Director of the Department of Antiquities and Museums of Kuwait) and includes a variety of calligraphic work dating from the 7th century until today.

Tareq Rajab Museum of Islamic Calligraphy

Tareq Rajab Museum of Islamic Calligraphy

The Museum of Islamic Art (MIA) in Doha, Qatar opened in 2007. The MIA was designed by architect I.M. Pei and planned in coordination with the British Museum. The museum’s collection dates from the 7th century to today, and its calligraphy represents a range of media such as Korans and manuscripts, ceramics, tiraz and coins. The museum is located on an artificial island accessible by pedestrian bridge. It aims to be the foremost museum of Islamic art in the world, and according to its website, “a centre of education and information in the field of the arts of the Islamic world.”

Visit each museum’s website for information about fees and hours of operation.

Museum of Islamic Art

Museum of Islamic Art