Around the World and Back Again

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I was asked by Salaam Gateway to write a monthly column about Islamic Art. In this first piece, I looked at the restitution of an important Afghan bowl as a way of framing a larger question about cultural heritage. 

It’s difficult to get a grip on the meaning of cultural heritage. Notions of belonging, value, and memory can seem abstract and academic, but the discovery of a trafficked object has pushed these ideas into a more tangible framework. In a case that involved collectors, an auction house, and two museum authorities, the private market worked in tandem with the public sector towards a resolution that didn’t prioritise personal or corporate profit. Instead, a piece of cultural heritage, stolen over twenty years ago, was recovered and restored to its rightful context. The object in question, an Islamic tinned copper vessel, was ripped from its place in the National Museum of Afghanistan and condemned to obscurity for two decades before bobbing once again to the surface earlier this year.

The rest of the piece is here.

 

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Many Rivers to Cross

sadik-kwaish-alfraji

I met with Sadik Kwaish Alfraji, a Netherlands-based Iraqi artist, to talk about his travelling exhibition ‘Ali’s Boat’. Sadik’s soulful video works evolve from ink and charcoal; his sketchbooks act almost as an excavation of his personal stories, which overlay political and national narratives.

Encounters with place, memory, and identity arise as questions in Ali’s Boat, a highly personal multimedia installation by Iraqi-born artist Sadik Kwaish Alfraji. Curated by Nat Muller and accompanied by a book launch surveying Sadik’s major output, the exhibition’s success in Dubai has been in no way subdued by its migration to London, where it was shown during the recent Shubbak Festival, and where it will remain on display until the end of August. A story deconstructed and rebuilt, which simmered in Sadik’s subconscious for a decade, Ali’s Boat follows the first meeting with his nephew in his native Baghdad. The notions of memory, home, and journeying – which might jostle for space in a more constrained work – find fulfilment in Sadik’s immersive video narrative.

The piece continues here.

Light Fantastic

House of St. Barnabas

This article drew together recent work by the artists Bill Viola and Rupert Newman. They had each produced work that asked similar questions about spatial textures and meanings, using light as the primary material.

Light and colour have always been an important trope in Christian art and allegory; illiterate medieval congregations would have looked at the stained glass images to decode the Latin Mass they were unable to understand. Projection mapping connects the digital to the physical, and in Rupert Newman’s light projections, to the spiritual.

You can read the full piece here.