The first Islamic Art Circle in the north of England is due to be launched by the University of York this autumn term, in a move widely hailed as having the potential to bring about inter-cultural understanding.
The circle will consist of a series of talks exploring Muslim peoples and culture as represented in the visual arts. Beginning on Thursday the 13th November, in the Ron Cooke Hub, there are to be nine talks hosted throughout the course of the academic year, in a collaborative partnership between the University of York’s Islamic Society and the History of Art department.
The first talk of the series, entitled “Storytelling in the Great Mongol Shahnama”, will involve Professor Robert Hillenbrand, the author of ten books on Islamic architecture and paintings, who is also Professor of Fine Art at Edinburgh University and Professor of Islamic Art at St Andrew’s University, speaking on the Shahnama: the national poetic epic of Iran. The Shahnama was commissioned by a member of the Iranian royal family in the early fourteenth-century, after the Mongol conversion to Islam, and incorporates a diverse range of literary genres, like history, poetry and romance.
Subsequent talks due to be held include “Exploration, Orientalism and Revival: the European Discovery of Egypt’s Islamic Heritage”, on the 17th November, and “William Holman Hunt: Pre-Raphaelite and Orientalist”, on the 1st December.
Saher Ahmed, the Secretary of the University of York’s Islamic Society, commented:
“The Muslim world spans from the borders of China to Spain, and offers a rich and varied artistic heritage. Indeed Yorkshire is home to a large Muslim community with roots in South Asia. The Islamic world’s architectural legacy includes the Alhambra Palace in Granada, the Taj Mahal in Agra, the Blue Mosque in Istanbul, and the minaret of Jam in Ghor, Afghanistan. The material legacy includes ceramics, metalwork, textiles, and beautifully illustrated manuscripts.
Far from popular misconception, a rich and diverse artistic heritage exists, and continues to flourish within the Muslim world today. We are launching the York Islamic Art Circle to encourage discussion, learning and debate, open to the general public. In the coming months, we will explore Persian painting, orientalism, mythology, ceramic art, Islamic gardens, overland travel in the Islamic eastern Mediterranean, textiles, and cross-cultural exchange. All of our talks are aimed at a non-specialist audience – you do not have to be a specialist to enjoy Islamic art.”