Oleg Grabar passed away on January 8th, 2011. On the review of the Aga Khan's architecture awards, this blog had not mentioned the Chairman's award given to Grabar as a tribute to his work on Islamic art and architecture.
In his speech in Doha for the awards, and as his last public appearance, he says :
" It is with much pride and gratitude that I have accepted the Chairman’s Award from the Aga Khan Award for Architecture, following Hassan Fathy, Rifat Chaderji, and Sir Geoffrey Bawa. It is an honor to join such a distinguished company and, even more so, to be the first one who is not an architect nor a planner, not even a decision-maker (...) but an academic scholar and teacher who has spent his life in universities and research institutes learning and then transmitting to others, in lectures, seminars, and writing whatever I had learned and understood. And it is with these two themes of knowledge and of education that my remarks will deal.
These are all developments that could have made all of us richer and more sophisticated in our understanding of the vast Muslim world. But have they done so? Not always. In a paradoxical way, they have strengthened parochialism, because few thinkers, practitioners or generalists are really involved in imagining what Morocco, Uzbekistan, or Malaysia have in common. It has become easier to firm up one’s own rather than to drown it with too much parallel information. This development is clearly tied to the rise of local nationalisms of all sorts and may not subside, but national passions are so tragically inbred in men and women that I can only hope that the global humanism I wish to preach is not a dream. Then, the rise of violent extremism among Muslims and a destructive and senseless response among non-Muslims have led, for our academic and practical purposes, to an almost paranoiac concern for security and to restrictions on travel or on exchanges of all sorts which are harmful to the growth, even the maintenance, of learned connections and of a fruitful knowledge. Behind both extremism and the response to it lies a profound ignorance of everything, from the interpretation of religious texts and awareness of history to the beliefs and motivations of others than ourselves.
These are all rather frightening prospects, especially when it is so easy to draw a vision of a rich and productive future, in which local creativity can enhance the lives of all men and women and become known to all of them, from financial or political leaders to schoolchildren. People of my age will not know whether this vision will ever become real, but we all know that those here and elsewhere who are under fifty have an exciting challenge ahead of them, and, thanks to the Aga Khan Award and to a number of parallel institutions, one or more vehicle to meet that challenge."
Those under fifty, (or just around fifty...) do hear out the wise man in his wishes: "you have an exciting challenge ahead of you... "
the "global humanism" has been dreamt of and can be achieve, here and right now, by those who hold the future in their hands...