For the past few weeks I had heard about the new Albukhary Foundation Art Gallery at the British Musuem – a new permanent gallery showcasing a diverse collection relating to the Islamic world – as I have a long-standing interest in arts, crafts and culture.
But when I received an invitation to a private viewing on 17 October 2018, I quickly accepted as I was curious to know what type of things would be in an exhibition at an all Islamic and Muslim-world focused gallery in my home city of London.
Attending with a friend, as we both walked into the museum entrance, we were ushered in and given the option to either go straight to view the exhibitions at the new Albukhary Gallery or first grab a drink at the service point.
In the gallery area, we were both attracted to the beautiful and very interesting works of art that greeted us. They included beautifully engraved objects and works with the words “the Islamic world”, as well as various artefacts, beautiful woodwork, and wonderful Quranic and Islamic inscription on beautiful stones and rare objects.
We were particularly impressed with the exhibition writings, including a journey through the historical heritage of Muslims of the Old Age across the Muslims worlds, Egypt and other parts of Africa to Asian communities. Amongst the exhibition writings was also the heritage of Muslims in China, which was particularly poignant given the current reports of significant oppression of Uighur Muslims in China in so-called “re-education camps”.
Our favourite work exhibited in the gallery was the “Tomb stone of the Lady of the Dawn” which showcased just how much of important roles Muslim women of the past play in all aspects of life. This is for me a powerful statement about Muslim women and socio-economic empowerment, both historically and today.
Another breath-taking part of the exhibition was about the Muslim World’s fashion throughout the ages that was on display, but also the unfortunate way that fashion was used as a social marker of class and high status.
Many more things were on display in the gallery, including everyday life objects, musical instruments, ceramics and traditional dresses.
The Albukhary Foundation is a non-profit organisation based in Malaysia, and known for its support for the Islamic Arts Museum Malaysia, a famous attraction in the city of Kuala Lumpur, and also the largest museum in Asia Pacific dedicated to the arts, culture and heritage of the Islamic world.
A visit to the new permanent gallery is highly recommended and I hope through this and other arts, culture and heritage movements, it can help to further foster an avenue for informed and better discussion of Muslims and our heritage beyond the stereotypes.
Written by Rashidat Hassan, Assistant Secretary General
The Albukhary Foundation Gallery of the Islamic World is now open in Roooms 42-43 of the British Museum, London. More information is online at http://islamicworld.britishmuseum.org/