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.
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.
“The Fatimids defined luxury objects for a millennium and fostered a flowering of the arts and architecture,” says Al-Khamis. “The confluence of different styles is easily traceable on individual artifacts as well as specific types of objects such as lusterware, an expensive type of ceramic ware with metallic colours. These were decorated with uniquely expressive styles and motifs that reflected the customer’s interest, from Christian motifs to Greek animal fables, astronomical subjects, popular pastimes such as hunting, or references to official ceremonial occasions.” Among the objects on display will be monumental marble reliefs—never before shown abroad—from the Museum of Islamic Art in Cairo, and works never before seen in North America on loan from the great museums of Europe. The exhibit will also feature virtual reality immersions crafted to evoke the likeness of ancient Cairo.
Between the 10th and the 12th centuries, the Fatimids practiced a degree of tolerance, pluralism and social inclusiveness unparalleled for its time. Now, their legacy is being honoured in Canada.
The World of the Fatimids is on at the Aga Khan Museum from March 10 to July 2, 2018.
Never miss a story. Sign up for NUVO’s weekly newsletter.