Monday, 29 November 2010

Sophie Budden, Conservateur at Dar al athar al Islamiyah

During a lecture at Dar Al Athar al Islamiyah, Sophie Budden talked about her job at the al Sabah Collection, covering more than 22 000 objects. With a wide range of pieces from fabric, to carpets, to metal, to stones, to manuscripts; and from different eras, to different provenance, Sophie was talking about her aim: general care, cleaning, storing, finding,  packing, exhibiting.
It all sounded quite thrilling.

She showed pictures of before and after, she showed how meticulous the work had to be done, how precise scalpels under microscope took 4 to 6 weeks to clean a metal object to restore and give it a shine. She had a higher pitch of voice when she tried to convey her excitement on how it was "terribly neat to look and find what you want" through the custom made data base for the collection or through the endless storage shelfs. She mentioned "vigilance" as a time consuming effort for keeping the objects safe from humidity, from moths...
She shared her amazement after cleaning a silver enamelled sword, the exuberance of true minuscule carving showed and how the movement of luminosity is reflected and refracted

It seems that Sophie Budden has an incredible mission: Civilisations disappear, people die, and she fights the time machine to protect the precious objects from going back into dust.

more on the lecture at the DIA blog link

Saturday, 27 November 2010

The Chandayana by Dr Naman P. Ahuja

Dr Naman Ahuja, from the Jawaharal Nehru University, in New Delhi,  loves to tell a good story and the "Chandayana" is a good story. During his lecture at Dar Al Athar al Islamiyah he tried to push for a scholarly presentation of styles of painting miniatures on paper (the Mandu style, the Jain style, the unique style, the Chaurapanchasika style...). He tried to explain how a folk tale was hijacked by the sufis to turn into a religious message of seeking and looking for divine intervention. He tried to explain the shift from an oral tale to a written script, and to underline the importance of epic indian codes of symbolism.

But when he stood there and said: "She swoons, their eyes met!" with a pause. It became vibrant, alive. As if he was Mullah Daoud in the 14th century, keeping his public alert, gasping for more. And the story of Chanda goes on with love, beauty, honor, loyalty, tourment, separation, exile, husbands, wife, mothers in law, battle, armies, fakirs, yogis, deities, and supreme love yet unbearable to many.

Dr Ahuja gave a pulsating lecture and it remained informative and enriching on all levels.

For more on the story of Chanda DAI blog link

photo :The Heroine Chanda fanning her beloved, Laurak, under a tree, from a manuscript of the Chandayana (The Story of Chanda), 1540
Pigments on paper
(SanFransisco Asian Museum)

Friday, 26 November 2010

Aga Khan Architecture awards in Qatar

Every two years, since 1977, the Aga Khan Awards for islamic architecture selects projects as recipient of the famous awards and gathers all the attention on the subject. On the 24th of November this year's ceremony was held in Qatar.
Please find a few extracts from his Highness the Agha Khan's speech:

"Many of you will remember my personal concern, back in the mid-1970’s, that this conversation was scarcely even taking place.
Discussion and debate about the built environment in the Islamic world was then a very thin proposition. The continuity of Islamic architecture had sadly lapsed - weakened by the heavy hand of colonialization, by modernization and globalization, by the lack of architectural training in Islamic contexts, and even by the development of new construction materials in the industrialized world. The result was a paucity both of indigenous architects and of foreign architects working with distinction in Islamic settings and idioms.
Historically, the arts, including architecture, have taken their principal inspiration from religious faith. But when art is separated from faith-based roots, other influences can dominate - including soulless technology and empty secularization.
At that time I used the term “vacuum” to describe the Islamic architectural scene. The initial goal of our Awards programme was to replace that vacuum with an energized debate.
Why should we emphasize an Islamic approach to architecture? Our Master Jury, in responding to this question, has described how global forces now threaten the values of “memory, heritage and belonging,” and how the built environment can help meet that challenge.
At the same time, in looking at the places we have met and the projects we have honoured, we also see enormous diversity. Diversity, in fact, is part of the essence of Islam. 
Nor does respecting the past mean copying the past. Indeed, if we hold too fast to what is past, we run the risk of crushing that inheritance.
The best way to honour the past is to seize the future.
These, then, are four of the major concerns that I would submit for further discussion. What does architectural excellence mean in the context of Islamic traditions and aspirations? How do we reach a wider array of constituents? Can we expand our social and economic relevance? And how do we best employ innovative technologies?
These concerns, of course, will lead us to further questions. How and where do we teach about architecture? How can we anticipate and occasionally help steer the processes of change? How do we best reward and learn from those who are most successful? How can we share our lessons with others outside the Ummah?"

In the next few posts, the 5 recipients awarded will be presented in this blog
If you are impatient, visit the Aga Khan Website for more on all these wonders:

Thursday, 25 November 2010

Resuming blogging

After a long freeze in the desert, nearly 4 month,  blogging is ready to resurface.
Ready or not, here it comes!

(Thanks Abdallah for the comic strip!)