Syria’s Murderous Struggle, and Multicultural Peace
By HOLLAND COTTER DEC. 7, 2016
After years of civil war, and with one of its most venerable cities, Aleppo, under threat of obliteration, Syria is for many little more than a 21st-century nightmare, its glorious past lost and forgotten.
The exhibition “Syria: A Living History,” at the Aga Khan Museum in Toronto, is here to remind us of that past.
The show features just 48 objects, but it encompasses centuries, and much of the work is choice. The earliest piece, a stone sculpture that looks abstract except for two pairs of staring eyes, dates from around 3200 B.C. An exquisitely carved ivory lion’s head from the eighth or ninth century B.C. has roots in Near Eastern visual traditions shared with Anatolia and Mesopotamia. Christian, Jewish and Islamic influences also came into play and mingled.
Throughout all of this, there were periods of murderous struggle. More remarkable, there were even longer stretches of multicultural peace.
By closing with contemporary Syrian works, the show suggests that, against all present evidence, there could be peace again. (Through Feb. 26.)
A version of this article appears in print on December 11, 2016, on page AR6 of the New York edition with the headline: Deadly Struggle, But Peace, Too.
Research, Insight & Perspective by A. Maherali
About Aga Khan Museum’s acclaimed exhibition Syria: A Living History
Exhibition Duration: Oct 15 2016 to Feb 26 2017
Few countries have captured the world’s attention like Syria has today.
Stories of conflict and displacement dominate the media and define people’s awareness of the place. Syria: A Living History brings together artifacts and artworks that tell a different story — one of cultural diversity, historical continuity, resourcefulness, and resilience.
For over five millennia, this region perched on the eastern Mediterranean has witnessed great world civilizations coming on its soil and producing art, literature, and culture that constitute the country’s rich legacy.
Strongly informed by a distinctive landscape and history, artists of Syria throughout the ages have made priceless contributions to world heritage.
Syria: A Living History inspires new understanding of Syria’s past and present, and invites new ways of thinking about its future.
Dr. Filiz Çakır Phillip, Aga Khan Museum
Professor Nasser Rabbat, Aga Khan Program for Islamic Architecture, MIT
Dr. Ross Burns, Sydney, Australia
Download the Exhibition Companion Book
Heritage and Conflict: Syria’s Battle to Save Its Past
Sunday, October 16, 2 pm
Syria: A Living History
Tuesday, October 18, 6:30–7:30 pm
Writing at the Aga Khan Museum
Sunday, October 23, 11am–4 pm
Syria’s Art and Architecture: A Multicultural History
Saturday, October 29, 9:30 am–4 pm and Sunday, October 30, 10 am–12 pm
Co-organized with Professor Nasser Rabbat, Aga Khan Program for Islamic Architecture, MIT
CLASSICAL MUSIC SERIES Arias and Maqams with Lubana Al Quntar
Saturday, October 29, 8 pm
50 Feet from Syria
Sunday, November 6, 2 pm
Modern History: Syria
Thursday, November 10, 1–2 pm
Aleppo: A City and Its Architecture
Sunday, November 13, 2–4 pm
Oh My Sweet Land by Amir Nizar Zuabi
Friday, November 18–Sunday, November 20, 6 pm
Home Within with Kinan Azmeh and Kevork Mourad
Saturday, November 26, 8 pm and Sunday, November 27, 2 pm
Return to Homs
Sunday, December 4, 2 pm
Arabica Coffee House Concert with the Al Qahwa Ensemble
Sunday, December 11, 6 pm
A Syrian Love Story
Sunday, January 15, 2pm
A Pearl in the Desert: Palmyra’s Multicultural Society
Saturday, January 26, 1 pm
Mwashahat and Qudood by The Canadian Arabic Orchestra and The Canadian Arabic Choir
Saturday, January 28, 7:30 pm
On the Bride’s Side
Sunday, January 29, 2 pm
Damascus Remembered: Walking the City in Time
Thursday, February 9, 1 pm
Syria: A Living History
Thursday, February 16, 6:30 pm