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Ahmed Mater, Magnetism 1, 2008
Ahmed Mater, Magnetism 1, 2008

ISLAMIC HAJJ AT BRITISH MUSEUM

Jan. 10, 2012

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The British Museum in London collaborated with Saudi Arabia's King Abdulaziz Public Library in Riyadh to organize the new exhibition, “Hajj: Journey to the Heart of Islam,” Jan. 26-Apr. 15, 2012, which explores the Islamic pilgrimage through 200 objects from 13 different countries. Each year, four million devout Muslims travel to Mecca, where the Prophet Muhammad received his first revelations. The journey, called Hajj, is one of the five pillars of Islam and every Muslim must make it at least once in life if they’re able. Organized by the museum's Islamic art scholar Venetia Porter, the show is mounted with advice from a special panel from London's Regent's Park Mosque.

Highlights include a seetanah, the cover of the door to the Ka’ba, the building in Mecca thought to have been built by Abraham and Ishmael, as well as a 19th-century mahmal, a ceremonial silk tent carried on the back of a camel. Other loan items are pilgrim's banners, historic compasses, decorated ceramic tiles, candlesticks, 19th-century photographs of pilgrims, and manuscripts and prayer books. The show features the diaries of Lady Evelyn Cobbold, a Scottish aristocrat and convert to Islam who was the first British woman to go on the Hajj.

In what promises to be an interesting installation, contemporary art is interspersed among the historical exhibits. Among the participants are the London-based artist Idris Khan, Saudi artists Ayman Yossri, Reem Al Faisal and Maha Malluh Daydban, and Ahmed Mater, who contributes an installation of thousands of magnets bending in toward a central cube.

"Hajj" is the final installment in a series of three British Museum exhibitions on the general theme of "spiritual journeys," following shows on the Egyptian book of the Dead and devotion in Medieval Europe. It is sponsored by HSBC Cultural Exchange, the HSBC bank's three-year-old global cultural sponsorship program, which is active so far in more than 25 countries.

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