When it comes to the Islamic civilisation, there are often two very drastic contradictions one may come to reflect upon. The first of which is shock, and the second, is awe. As it does not take long for one’s news feed to be clogged with news demonstrating the uncivilised and chaotic nature of the state of the Muslim world.
Yet, on the other hand, this reflection cannot truly be the real representation of Islam. Certainly, not when there have been such incredible histories behind this longstanding and well-regarded faith.
‘So That You Might Know Each Other: Faith and Culture in Islam’ is one such exhibit to crush such beliefs on display at the Nation Museum of Australia (NMA) in Canberra from 20 April to 22 July 2018.
This exhibition which features more than 100 precious 18th to 20th-century artefacts from more than 20 countries, showcasing embroidered textiles from Uzbekistan, musical instruments from Morocco and a horse saddle from North Africa.
The project is all part of a demonstration of the colourful and beautiful Islamic past, in partnership between the Vatican Anima Mundi Museum of World Arts and Cultures and the Sharjah Museum of Islamic Civilisation.
Islam’s Golden Age which dates back from the 8th century to the 14th century brought many scientific, mathematical and artistic contributions to the world.
For instance, the first flying machine of the 9th century was designed as a winged apparatus that was first attempted by a Spanish man called Abbas ibn Firnas.
Similarly, the invention of the camera and clock have also been attributed to Muslim creative inventors. Such historical records are not generally well-known or appreciated.
Nevertheless, this particular Australian exhibition on global artefacts seeks to demonstrate the stunning diversity of Islamic cultures.
Director of the NMA Mathew Trinca said it was the first time many of the objects have been showcased to Australia.
“There’s just beautiful things in this exhibition from across the Islamic world,” Dr Trinca said.
“Islamic arts and decorative crafts are globally recognised for their beauty and artistry, and we hope this exhibition promotes mutual understanding and dialogue between cultures and faiths.”
It is hoped that this exhibition would inspire the Australian public to be open-minded about Islamic history.
According to Dr Trinca, the exhibition seeks to encourage the audience to “open up and embrace difference”.
The Director of the Vatican Museums, Dr Barbara Jatta, shared her hopes for the Australian audiences to embrace the exhibition.
“As I followed the preparation of this exhibition, I was sincerely struck by the beauty and sophistication of the Islamic world – I saw firsthand the refined productions of people living across a vast area stretching from Africa to Australia.”
The Quran is said to be a book not just for Muslims, but a book for humanity. The title ‘So That You Might Know Each Other’ is inspired by a verse from the Holy Qur’an.
“O mankind, indeed We have created you from male and female and made you peoples and tribes that you may know one another. Indeed, the most noble of you in the sight of Allah is the most righteous of you. Indeed, Allah is Knowing and Acquainted”. (Quran 49: 13).
The verse epitomises the openness and acceptance of Islamic theology, that ultimately values the equality and nobility of all. This exhibition reinforces the spirit of intercultural respect and dialogue.
According to Trinca, the exhibition has been long waited by the Australian public.
“There has never been a more important time for a show of this kind in Australia,” said Dr Trinca.