Kate Taylor – April 26 – Tucked away in one corner of a current exhibition at the Aga Khan Museum, there is a panel of blue and white tiles that was made in Syria in the 16th century. It shows an archway, a lantern and the dark silhouette of a pair of sandals. These are the prophet’s sandals, a way of invoking the holy man without showing him: The panel confirms the Western understanding of art’s role in Islam, a religion where it’s deemed sacrilegious to represent any human figure.
And yet this show, titled Image? The Power of the Visual and curated by Marika Sardar, contradicts that interpretation at every turn. It is stuffed with human images, of sheiks and shahs, heroes and lovers.
“It is really a misconception that was created by Western academics,” said Ulrike Al-Khamis, who was appointed the Toronto museum’s director last July and curated this show. “They did not account for the complex and diverse nature of Muslim cultures. This exhibition looks at the fact that Muslim cultures, like any other cultures, have their images in relation to their needs.”
One of those needs is the expression of political power. In a section on that theme, delicate miniatures celebrate the refinement of the Mughal emperors, who ruled parts of India, Pakistan and Bangladesh from the 16th to 19th century, while recent photo portraits affirm the dynastic continuity of the royal houses of the Gulf states.
Full article at The Globe and Mail