Aga Khan's collection on display in Berlin

Aga Khan's collection on display in Berlin

A chestnut leaf delicately inscribed with golden calligraphy greets visitors at the start of the show of works collected by the billionaire philanthropist and illustrating the breadth of Islamic culture.

Dating back to the Ottoman Empire in the 19th century, it is one of the newest pieces presented on Tuesday at the Martin Gropius Bau gallery. Exhibits date back as far as a green-glazed pilgrim’s flask from the 7th or 8th century.

Organisers hope “to present to our western public the pluralism of the Islamic cultures,” Luis Monreal, the managing director of the Aga Khan Trust for Culture, told reporters.
“We in general view Islam as a single cultural identity and this is simply a wrong perception, because Islam over 13 centuries has been a religion practiced by a great diversity of people,” he said.

At the western end of the Islamic world, the exhibition showcases artifacts such as an inlaid scribe’s cabinet and an astrolabe from “al-Andalus,” the area of Spain ruled by the Moors until 1492. It also includes pages from the “blue Quran,” inscribed in gold on blue-dyed parchment, from North Africa.

At the other end, an 18th-century Quran inscribed in tiny lettering on green cloth from India occupies part of a wall, contrasting with a geometrically styled edition of the Quran from the Indonesian island of Sulawesi.

The exhibition also includes 19th-century Chinese pilgrim Ma Fuchu’s illustrated report on his pilgrimage to Mecca; a well-preserved Mongol robe from the 13th or 14th century; and illustrations of the epic Persian poem “Shahnama” or “Book of Kings.”

Organisers sought to highlight the importance of the written word and the Quran, while also following the routes of travellers, both those making the haj — the pilgrimage to Mecca — and adventurers and explorers, curator Benoit Junod said. The show, titled ‘Treasures of the Aga Khan Museum — Arts of the Islamic World’, opens to the public on Wednesday and runs through June 6.

The Aga Khan is spiritual leader of 20 million Shia Ismaili Muslims. The exhibition includes 215 items out of a collection totalling roughly 1,000 pieces, whose permanent home in Toronto should be ready in mid-2013.

DH Newsletter Privacy Policy Get the top news in your inbox
GET IT
Comments (+)