Spiritual Foundations of the Fatimids
Sunday, March 25, 2–3 pm
$20, $18 Friends, $12 students and seniors
Did you know that the Fatimid caliphs were also the imams (spiritual leaders) of Shia Ismaili Muslims? Serving as Ismaili imams before becoming Fatimid caliphs, these leaders continued to be acknowledged as imams long after establishing the Fatimid caliphate. Today, the Fatimids continue to be generally referred to as “imam-caliphs.”
In this lecture, Dr. Farhad Daftary investigates the roots of the Fatimids as imams and spiritual leaders of an important Shia community, revealing how the Ismaili connection of the Fatimid caliphs served to extend beyond the borders of the Fatimid state — and ensure the survival of Ismailism long after the decline of the Fatimid dynasty.
Mar 10 2018 to Jul 2 2018
The World of the Fatimids bears witness to a remarkable dynasty that built the world’s oldest university, compiled one of its greatest libraries, and fostered a flowering of the arts and sciences. At its height in the 10th and 11th centuries, the Fatimids established one of the greatest civilizations in the world, influencing knowledge and culture throughout the Mediterranean, Europe, and the Near East.
The exhibition marks the first time a carefully selected collection of masterpieces from the Fatimid dynasty are shown in North America. Among the objects are monumental marble reliefs, never before shown abroad, from the Museum of Islamic Art in Cairo, luxury objects ranging from rock crystal and ivory to ceramic lusterware — a technique mastered during Fatimid times — and masterpieces of metalware. Drone videography and 360 virtual reality films conjure up Cairo, the Fatimids’ flourishing capital, and offer insight into what the city was like a millennium ago.
The Aga Khan Museum is one of Toronto’s crown jewels. This great cultural tapestry is all about connecting cultures through art and showing the interconnectivity and storied history of numerous relics dating back centuries.
Fumihiko Maki, winner of the Pritzker Architecture Prize, designed the museum with light as his inspiration, reflecting the importance of patterns and light found in Islamic culture. With its contemporary design and the incorporation of historical elements originating in Islamic cultures, the museum “build[s] bridges between eras as well as civilizations.”
Featured at the museum is a permanent collection gathered by His Highness the Aga Khan and his family over several generations. The permanent collection showcases the breadth of Muslim civilizations from the 8th century to the present day, and includes more than 1,000 artifacts such as rare manuscripts, paintings, ceramics, glass, scientific instruments, intricate metalwork, and carved and painted wood objects.
The aim of the museum is to offer “unique insights and new perspectives into Islamic civilizations and the cultural threads that weave through history binding us together.”
Currently, the Aga Khan Museum is hosting a world premiere exhibition, “Arts of the East: Highlights of Islamic Art from the Bruschettini Collection.” Coming from Genoa, Italy, the collection introduces Canada and international audiences to one of the world’s most important private collections of Islamic art, in an selection exclusive to the Aga Khan Museum.
Jan 20 2018 to Apr 22 2018
Join us for a truly unique, multi-sensory experience as the Aga Khan Museum transforms into a mesmerizing world of music celebrating the living traditions of the Muslim world and their interaction with other cultures through time and space.
Immersive musical soundscapes and video installations featuring music from the Mediterranean, Syria, Turkey, Iran, and Central Asia combine with intimate displays of Middle Eastern instruments and related artifacts from the Museum’s Permanent Collection to invite visitors on a spellbinding journey of discovery. Spaces throughout the Museum — including the Bellerive Room, the Museum Collections, and even our Diwan restaurant — will come alive through and with music.
Listening to Art, Seeing Music offers ample opportunity to engage directly with musicians and musical traditions. At the heart of it all, in the Museum’s central courtyard, a Mongolian yurt — traditionally a warm communal gathering space and shelter from the elements — welcomes visitors to listen to live music, join musical conversations, experience stories of music-making, and share a cup of tea.
Aga Khan Museum Initiates Patrons Circle In The Gulf
Friends of the Aga Khan Museum launches in the Gulf and South Asia calling for art enthusiasts to take a greater role in promoting cross-cultural arts, writes Ayesha Shaikh
Toronto’s Aga Khan Museum, the first in North America to house artworks from the Islamic world, launched late last year a cultural initiative in the Gulf and South Asia emphasising the region as an emerging hotbed for global art. Announced at Alserkal Avenue’s Concrete space in Dubai, Friends of the Aga Khan Museum in the Gulf and South Asia aims to build a regional network of individuals with a shared penchant for the diverse historic and contemporary art from the Islamic world. His Excellency Sheikh Nahyan bin Mubarak Al Nahyan, Minister of Culture and Knowledge Development, who was present at the occasion, will serve as the honorary chairman of the Aga Khan Museum Patrons Circle in the UAE.
“There’s a real nexus, a real gathering together of the arts in this region,” says Henry S Kim, CEO and Director of Aga Khan Museum for the past five years, on this pivot towards the Gulf and South Asia. “We felt there was a need to create this “friends” group because these regions are going to contribute a lot to us, not only in terms of supporters who help the museum financially but also those who believe in the big picture of this museum.”
Sep 23 2017 to Jan 21 2018
From lavish textiles and intricately patterned carpets to colourful paintings, polychrome Iznik wares, and precious inlaid metalwork: the world premiere of Arts of the East: Highlights of Islamic Art from the Bruschettini Collection introduces Canadian and international audiences to a choice selection from one of the world’s most important private collections of Islamic art.
Handpicked by Dr. Alessandro Bruschettini in conversation with Aga Khan Museum Curator Filiz Çakır Phillip, the objects showcased in the exhibition, numbering more than 40 and dating from the 13th to 17th centuries, demonstrate remarkable vibrancy, variety, and technical perfection and represent the essence of this rarely exhibited collection.
A feast for the eyes, Arts of the East: Highlights of Islamic Art from the Bruschettini Collection illuminates the noble art of collecting and the enduring appeal of Islamic masterworks.
Dr. Filiz Çakır Phillip
Since 2016, our World Music Series has been connecting cultures and inspiring conversations. This season the series continues under a new banner of Global Conversations with the rhythms and sounds of Italy, Israel, Egypt, and beyond.
Experience an explosive combination of Yemeni song and poetry, Jewish music, West African groove, and funk that has made Yemen Blues one of the most exciting bands to come out of Israel in recent years. Renowned for its “uproarious” performances, the band has garnered wide acclaim around the globe.
Thursday, January 18, 8 pm
$50, $45 Friends, $37.50 students and seniors
Includes same-day Museum admission
Round-trip shuttle service from Union Station available for $5
Straight from the Central Asian Steppe and handmade from felt and wood, the yurt is one of 10 immersive and interactive experiences as part of the museum’s latest exhibition, Listening to Art, Seeing Music. The yurt will feature pop-up performances from guests around the world (Syria, Ukraine, Iran, Turkey) and offer a warm, communal gathering space where visitors can listen to live music, exchange stories and share a cup of tea.
Aga Khan Museum embraces music to express ‘intangible culture’
Adding soundscapes to its galleries along with depictions of sonic creations of Muslim peoples worldwide.
The Aga Khan Museum has joined a growing number of institutions that are enhancing their exhibits with sound.
Three summers ago, the National Gallery in London, England, enticed visitors with a show called Soundscapes, encouraging them to “Hear the painting. See the sound.” The critics’ response was mixed, with the Telegraph calling the show “painfully unambitious.” The Evening Standard suggested paintings should “be seen and not heard.”
To dismiss the Aga Khan Museum’s Listening to Art, Seeing Music as unambitious would do a disservice to the difference between a building hung with paintings and the three-year-old Toronto museum’s mission to showcase the enduring art, culture and faith of Muslim peoples around the world.
A traditional art museum is about objects. At the Aga Khan, beliefs and ideals are as important as any artifact on display.
“As an institution, we deal not just with tangible culture but also with intangible culture,” says Listening to Art, Seeing Music curator Amirali Alibhai, who is also the museum’s head of performing arts. For him, music is the ultimate intangible
Real Weddings: Inside a glam, multicultural celebration at the Aga Khan Museum
They initially wanted to elope, but ultimately decided to let their families take part in the celebrations. “We thought, if we’re going to do a wedding, we better do it damn well,” says Leigh. They hunted for a downtown venue in Toronto, but most seemed overpriced. Leigh’s sister suggested the Aga Khan Museum, and when they went to visit, they were instantly sold. They loved that the space was able to accommodate a Jewish ceremony as well as a traditional Chinese tea ceremony, and that the museum’s Middle Eastern roots added another cultural layer to the festivities. “Our friends joked that the wedding was the epitome of multiculturalism,” says Leigh.
Amyn Aga Khan to open the "World of the Fatimids" Exhibition at the Aga Khan Museum on 12th of March 2018. The Fatimids were the ancestors of the Aga Khans, they reigned over a large part of the Middle East from the Maghreb to Bagdad and founded Cairo. The Imams of Ismailis founded a truly pluralist Empire!
This event is not open to the public. It is by invitation only.
Last edited by Admin on Wed Mar 14, 2018 6:34 am, edited 2 times in total
The World of the Fatimids goes on display in Toronto
A collection of Fatimid artefacts arrived safely in Canada for a temporary exhibition at the Aga Khan Museum
A collection of Fatimid artefacts from Cairo arrived in Toronto on Tuesday for inclusion in a temporary exhibition at the city's Aga Khan Museum.
The exhibition, titled The World of the Fatimids, will run from 10 March to 2 July, providing North America with its first display of carefully selected Fatimid artworks, according to the museum.
Elham Salah, head of the museums sector at the Egyptian Ministry of Antiquities, told Ahram Online that the museum has received eight wooden boxes containing a collection of 37 artefacts for the show.
THE WORLD OF THE FATIMIDS
An ancient Islamic dynasty comes to the Aga Khan Museum.
Toronto’s Aga Khan Museum, North America’s only museum solely dedicated to showcasing Islamic art and culture, debuts an exhibit this spring particularly close to the institution’s namesake. The World of the Fatimids, which opens March 10, showcases the art created by an Islamic dynasty which arose in the ninth century, to which his Highness the Aga Khan traces his lineage back.
The foremost Islamic power of their time, the Fatimids maintained complex political and economic networks across Africa, the Mediterranean, the Red Sea and the Indian Ocean, Iraq, Iran, and India, all the way to China. Their art, explains Dr. Ulrike Al-Khamis, the museum’s director of collections and public programs, reflects the breadth and diversity of their networks, and their far-reaching religious tolerance may be observed in their aesthetic incorporation of traditional Jewish and Christian crafts.
Pritzker Architecture Prize Ceremony to be held at the Aga Khan Museum Toronto – Goes to Low-Cost Housing Pioneer From India
Considered a pioneer of low-cost housing, Mr. Doshi, 90, is thrilled to have been awarded the 2018 Pritzker Prize, architecture’s highest honor, which was announced on Wednesday. He is the first laureate from India, and worked with the 20th-century masters Le Corbusier and Louis Kahn.“It is a very wonderful thing that happened,” he said in a recent telephone interview from his home in Ahmedabad, a city that was once the center of the nonviolent struggle for Indian independence. The award will be bestowed on Mr. Doshi, the 45th laureate, at the Aga Khan Museum in Toronto in May.
Aga Khan Museum explores lost world of the Fatimids
This caliphate founded Cairo and ruled Egypt for 200 years, then vanished. A new show at the Aga Khan Museum looks to unearth a hidden history.
Three towering marble slabs loom over a broad gallery space in the Aga Khan Museum, their rough hides heavy with the weight of downfall. There is urgency etched into the stone: Made to adorn the royal palace of the Fatimids in ancient Cairo, their fluid forms — a fish, deer, foliage, peacocks — are rough and unfinished, their work abruptly cut short. When they were found centuries later, buried in the desert face down — a clear sign of contempt — they were one of few things that remained.
The panels date to the late 12th century, right around the time that Saladin’s army marched through the city gates and laid waste to all that the Fatimids had done. It was an erasure so complete that the Fatimids’ 200-year rule exists only in fragments and whispers.
“The big problem with the Fatimid period is that we have a minimal proportion — perhaps one per cent — of what once existed,” said Assadullah Souren Melikian-Chirvani, the London-based curator who brought the objects here. “It was systematically destroyed when (Saladin) conquered Cairo in 1169. The evidence of destruction is overwhelming — much of the material was smashed to smithereens. There was prodigious hostility towards the Fatimids by the Sunni conquerors, which means there are all kinds of questions we’ll never be able to answer.”
If Melikian-Chirvani liked a challenge, he certainly found one as tried to put meat on scant old bones. Cobbling objects from such far-ranging sources as the Louvre in Paris, the Victoria & Albert Museum in London, New York’s Metropolitan Museum and the Museum of Islamic Art in Cairo, which holds the bulk of the dynasty’s slim remains, he stitched together The World of the Fatimids, a patchwork quilt of esthetic remnants that, for the first time, tries to divine a fuller picture of a society interrupted. It opens Saturday.
The marble slabs are alone here for their monumentality. The lion’s share of objects are tiny, delicate, quotidian — the kinds of things that slip past a hostile interloper looking to erase all evidence of his forebears. A small bronze mortar here, inscribed with the regal symbol of a lion, is one of only 50 such objects to be unearthed from Fatimid Egypt. Across the Islamic world, Melikian-Chirvani says, such objects number in the many thousands.
Such rare things help to sketch a unique moment in a mythic city’s hodgepodge visual evolution. The Fatimids — Ismaili Muslims who came to Egypt from North Africa around 909 AD — arrived to find a small city on the Nile. Surveying the terrain, they chose to build their own a few hundred metres afield. By 969, their bustling settlement had evolved into a city in its own right, which they named Cairo — a Fatimid city from the beginning.
From what he’s been able to gather, Melikian-Chirvani sees an esthetic distinct from both neighbouring Islamic hubs in Syria and Persia. Among the Fatimids, art made for the royal family had a playful cheekiness, eschewing heroic idolatry for a more mischievous air. He steers toward a series of earthenware bowls, painted in gold to depict hunting scenes. In one, a royal sits astride a horse, an eyebrow dubiously raised; in another, cartoonish lions and hares — symbols of the royal hunting field — parade in an almost camp-seeming procession.
“You see a sense of derision coming out,” Melikian-Chirvani said. “Theses are artists having a ball making these, laughing their heads off. There’s a fun, an exuberance coming out. That couldn’t have been done subversively. All that implies a tolerance among those in office, and the fun breaks out everywhere.”
A smiling and welcoming MC. An enthusiastic museum director. An expert on Fatimid history, with slides and narration. All addressing the global ismaili jamat. A unique presentation available on the Internet (perhaps for the short time).
Landmark World of the Fatimids exhibition opens at Aga Khan Museum
Renowned cultural historian Dr. Assadullah Souren Melikian-Chirvani curated the exhibition
Desmond Brown Posted: Mar 10, 2018 4:12 PM ET Last Updated: Mar 10, 2018 4:12 PM ET
A landmark exhibition exploring the World of the Fatimids opened Saturday at the Aga Khan Museum.
Curated by renowned cultural historian Dr. Assadullah Souren Melikian-Chirvani, the exhibition is North America's first to feature a carefully selected collection of masterpieces from the Fatimid dynasty.
Among the objects are monumental marble reliefs from the Museum of Islamic Art in Cairo, luxury objects ranging from rock crystal and ivory to ceramic lusterware — a technique mastered during Fatimid times — and early metal masterpieces.
Drone and 360-degree virtual reality videos bring to life Cairo, the Fatimids' flourishing capital, and offer insight into what the city was like a millennium ago.
Melikian-Chirvani, a London-based curator who brought some of the objects on display to Toronto, says he expects people will leave the exhibition in awe.
"A sense of diversity, a sense of very strong juxtapose identities which are juxtapose within the same culture," he told CBC Toronto. "A sense of surprise and pleasure at seeing objects and designs, motifs, which are completely different from anything which they have seen elsewhere."
Curator Dr. Assadullah Souren Melikian-Chirvani says he expects people will leave the exhibition in awe of the objects on display. (Aga Khan Museum)
The Fatimids established one of the most powerful economic, political and cultural metropolis in the Islamic World (Cairo) during the 10th to 12th centuries, in direct competition with Constantinople, which is now known as Istanbul, and Baghdad — yet little is known of them in the western world.
Exhibition organizers say the Fatimid empire's success was due to its liberal and progressive attitudes, which included free commercial/arts trade, allowing Christians, Jewish and Muslim government officials and being home to one of the first public libraries.
Exhibition includes dozens of pieces
There are about 87 pieces in the exhibition, many on loan from international collections including the Musée du Louvre in Paris, Benaki Museum in Athens, Victoria and Albert Museum in London and collections from Italy, Germany and Denmark to name a few.
Assuming that even if the public knows anything about the art from the 10th to 12th centuries, Melikian-Chirvani says they will be discovering objects that have never been seen before.
Included in the exhibition are five marble slabs dating back to the 12th century A.D., 1171, which have never been displayed publicly before, not even in Egypt.
"These panels were left unfinished, in my opinion, because the construction or the renovation of the Fatimid Palace was interrupted by the invasion of 1171," Melikian-Chirvani told CBC Toronto.
"We do not have unfinished works of this kind in any other monument or any other context in Egypt or indeed in any other Islamic culture or period or even in any culture from Western Europe. It is extremely rare to find unfinished works, works in progress."
The Fatimid exhibit continues for the next several weeks through July.
With files from Alison Chiasson
Landmark Exhibition Takes You Inside the Exuberant, Diverse World of the Fatimid Dynasty
Toronto’s Aga Khan Museum brings together 87 pieces from collections across the globe
By Brigit Katz
March 21, 2018
Between the 10th and 11th century, the Fatimid dynasty ruled over a vast and formidable empire that stretched across swaths of North Africa and the Middle East. After the Fatimids conquered Egypt, they chose Cairo as their capital city, and built it into a thriving metropolis filled with sumptuous architecture and a diverse culture. But by the end of the 11th century, the dynasty had started to crumble.
Political and economic turmoil left Fatimid caliphs unable to pay their soldiers, who responded by pillaging the royal palaces. After the great Islamic military leader Saladin finally brought an end to the dynasty in 1171, Fatimid art and architecture were deliberately destroyed. As a result of these cataclysmic events, very little of Fatimid material culture survives today—an unfortunate reality that makes a new exhibition on Fatimid art on view at Toronto’s Aga Khan Museum all the more remarkable.
The World of the Fatimids brings together 87 pieces from collections across the globe. Some, like a series of engraved marble panels from a Fatimid palace in Cairo, have never been publicly displayed before. The World of the Fatimids also marks the first major exhibition on the Fatimid dynasty to go on view in North America.
Hints of the Fatimids’ downfall lurk in various corners of the gallery. The aforementioned panels, for instance, are engraved with swirling foliage and large peacocks—one of which is starkly unfinished, possibly because construction on the palace was interrupted by the invasion of 1171. The dearth of surviving Fatimid objects presented a unique challenge for the curators of the exhibition.
“If you want to tell a story, you have to look very carefully which of these surviving objects to choose,” Ulrike Al-Khamis, director of collections and public programs, tells Smithsonian.com.
The narrative that unfolds through the artifacts on display reveals an opulent, sophisticated culture, with an influence that stretched all the way to Europe and the Near East. On view are elaborately engraved metal items, among them banquet trays, an oil lamp, and a gem box in the shape of a hare-like mythical creature, with a hole cut into its top so jewels could come tumbling out.
The Fatimids owned thousands of items made from rock crystal, some of which can be seen at the new exhibition. There is, for instance, a twinkling chess set made entirely from crystal, and a thick crystal crescent that was later taken to Europe and incorporated into the finial of a priest’s chair. Another highlight is a large ivory wine horn, its surface packed with engravings of animals.
“I love it so much,” Al-Khamis says of the artifact. “There are so many stories it tells us about early globalization, if you like, with the Fatimids being part of an enormously wide-reaching international network of trade routes into the very heart of sub-Saharan Africa, to bring things like ivory.”
That it’s unclear whether the horn itself originated in Cairo, Palermo or Southern Italy, he explains, speaks to that vigorous exchange of artifacts and ideas.
While the Fatimids were intimately connected to foreign cultures though trade, they set themselves apart with their figural art, which is detailed and expressive—humorous, even. At the Aga Khan exhibition, pottery fragments bear the faces of a heavily browed woman, her mouth set into a displeased squiggle, and a turban-clad man with his eyes rolling upward. An intact bowl, overlaid with a golden glaze, shows a valet attending to a cheetah; the animals were trained by the Fatimids to hunt gazelle. With his hands in close proximity to the cheetah’s gaping mouth, the valet looks mildly terrified.
The Fatimids’ proclivity for exuberant, winking figural art speaks to “a certain kind of intangible culture that lends itself to satire and to comedy,” Al-Khamis explains. He attributes the Fatimids’ distinct artistic style to the unique environment of the empire’s major cities, which were thrumming hubs of diversity.
The Fatimids adhered to the Ismaili branch of Shi’i Islam. While they notably clashed with Sunni Muslims of the Abbāsid dynasty, which was based in Baghdad, at home in Egypt, which boasted large populations of Jews and Coptic Christians, the Fatimids co-existed peacefully with other religions—a reality born out in the artifacts on view at the Aga Khan.
An 11th-century bowl, adorned with gold paint and covered with a shimmering glaze, shows a Coptic priest swinging an incense burner. The bowl is clearly a luxury item, suggesting that the Coptic clergy enjoyed elevated status in the Fatimid world. The exhibition also features an ornate wooden mihrab, or prayer niche, from the Cairo mausoleum of a Muslim holy woman. Nearby is a photograph of an arch from the Ben Ezra synagogue in Cairo, which is very similar in design. Craftsmen of the Fatimid era, it seems, were executing grandiose works of architecture for multiple religious denominations.
These relics from centuries past offer modern viewers “starting points to think about this issue of pluralism and … tolerance,” Al-Khamis says. “It would be wonderful if people realized that history can actually offer up a lot of interesting departure points to contemplate the present in which we live—and even into the future.”
What did the height of luxury look like in the 10th Century?
It embodied beauty, tolerance and power, according to a recent exhibition – watch the video to find out more.
By Sylvia Smith
20 March 2018
The World of the Fatimids, an exhibition at the Aga Khan Museum in Toronto, Canada, presents a selection of rare artefacts never before seen together. The 87 objects were created between the 10th and 12th Centuries, when the Fatimids, an Islamic dynasty that founded Cairo and made the city its capital, exerted huge influence over craft and design.
The Fatimids were great patrons of the arts, funding a flowering of creativity, and encouraging an unparalleled pluralistic approach to culture. This religious and ethnic diversity is reflected in bronze wares and ceramics, marble, ivory and wood carvings, as well as in rock-crystal work.
Ulrike Al-Khamis, the museum's director of collections and public programmes, points out that it is this multi-cultural approach which marks out the objects as being Fatimid. "The confluence of different styles is easily traceable on individual artefacts," she says. "These include calligraphy combined with images of human beings and animals."
The objects provide an insight into the luxurious lifestyle of the Fatimid rulers. But not all artefacts were made for them, and the decoration of some of the pieces in expressive styles reflects the customer's interest – from Christian motifs to Greek animal fables, astronomical subjects, or references to ceremonial occasions.
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