It was on a bright, clear afternoon that I went to the Registan and walked to the centre of the tiled expanse. All around me loomed impossibly ornate portals, patterned minarets and glistening cupolas. The world was suddenly rife with glazed mosaics in liquid shades of blue. The motifs around me would have been impressive enough on a teacup, but in such profusion and on so massive a scale they soon had me dizzy. The effect, it seems, was intended. They’re part of the legacy of the Turco-Mongol king Timur in his ancient city of Samarkand, located in modern-day Uzbekistan.
The contrast is striking. On one side are blackened domes with vegetal growth sprouting and on the other, lime-mortar finished graceful structures rising in the sky. Visitors to the Qutb Shahi Heritage Park can’t help draw in their breath at the transformation taking place. The 16 century mausoleums are getting a second lease of life. Correcting the criminal neglect suffered by the tombs during the last two centuries is no easy task. But the Aga Khan Trust for Culture (AKTC), world’s leading conservation body, has almost succeeded in doing the impossible.
Read More: A New Lease of Life for Qutb Shahi Tombs
See also: Qutb Shahi Monuments to be Restored
A 16th century enclosure wall was recently discovered at the Qutub Shahi Heritage Park. Retired director of ASI, K.K. Mohammed, who is now part of the Aga Khan Trust for Culture (AKTC) that is restoring the heritage site, said, “The 243-metre long enclosure was built much before the tomb complex.” The wall is up to nine feet below the current ground level at the heritage park. AKTC said that the wall would be restored and landscaping would be done.
The Telangana government has sent a proposal of Rs.85 crore to the central government for restoration works at Qutub Shahi tombs, the final abode of Qutub Shahi rulers at Golconda here. The state government proposes to develop landscaped gardens, site museum and illumination of the monuments spread over 104 acre royal necropolis. Principal Secretary, Tourism and Culture, B.P. Acharya, told reporters on Tuesday that the proposal was sent following an announcement made in the union budget for 2015-16.
In the late 1970s, the Syrian capital of Damascus was experiencing a building boom. In the al-Bahsa quarter, for instance, a clutch of old houses were demolished to make way for a new roadway. Among the homes: an 18th century courtyard house with at least one elaborate reception room crafted from hand-painted wood panels and inlaid stone. Before the house was destroyed, a Lebanese dealer bought the contents of the room — floors, fountain and wood panels — and for roughly three decades, warehoused them in Beirut, where they somehow managed to survive the Lebanese Civil War.
Deep down a winding dead-end back alley in the Cairo district of Bulaq, so hidden that few people apart from the residents themselves ever see it, lies an exquisite arched gateway made of ornamental stone. Bulaq is full of such treasures, although often hard to find beginning in the 15th century it was Cairo’s wealthy port on the Nile, when the spice trade and later the coffee trade to Europe passed through Egypt. As such it was chock-a-block with well-built warehouses, merchant lodgings and religious structures. In 1979, it was one of about a dozen Cairo neighbourhoods placed on Unesco’s World Heritage List. The gateway is in the Mameluke style, indicating it may have been built as long as 500 years ago.
The lead curator responsible for a major new Islamic art gallery at the British Museum in London has said that the new space will allow the “full range of the collections to be deployed”, with many objects going on show for the first time. Venetia Porter, the curator of the Islamic collections at the museum, said that glass, metalwork, ceramics, ethnography, miniature paintings, and other items dating from the beginning of Islam in the seventh century to today will go on display in the the Albukhary Foundation Gallery of the Islamic World, which is due to open in October 2018.
The work on restoration of 30 of the 72 monuments at the Qutb Shahi Heritage Park in the old city here will be completed next year. And, the entire project is expected to take 10 years for completion. With 72 monuments spread over 108 acres, the 400-year-old Qutb Shahi Heritage Park or ‘Seven Tombs’ is a unique necropolis comprising gardens, mosques, wells, etc that have been devoid of its due share of respect. Experts associated with the ongoing conservation of the heritage monuments believe that the site will transform into a major international heritage attraction after completion of the restoration work.
Read More: Qutb Shahi Monuments to be Restored
San Francisco artist Sanaz Mazinani presents a new and ambitious work that transforms cinematic action sequences, prompting a fresh perspective on the meanings and experience of media. Curated by Marc Mayer, educator for public programs, “Sanaz Mazinani: Threshold” is on view March 27 through May 3 in the Asian Art Museum’s Vinson Gallery. Mazinani’s work explores the conceptual and formal frames of photography as they relate to perception and representation, especially in digital culture.
The Deccan plateau of south-central India was home to a succession of highly cultured Muslim kingdoms with a rich artistic heritage. Under their patronage in the 16th and 17th centuries, foreign influences-notably from Iran, Turkey, eastern Africa, and Europe-combined with ancient and prevailing Indian traditions to create a distinctive Indo-Islamic art and culture. Opening at The Metropolitan Museum of Art on April 20, the landmark exhibition Sultans of Deccan India, 1500-1700: Opulence and Fantasy will bring together some 200 of the finest works from major international, private, and royal collections.
The most extraordinary thing about the exhibition, “Sultans of Deccan India, 1500-1700: Opulence and Fantasy”, that opens next month [April 20] at New York’s Metropolitan Museum of Art (popularly known as “the Met”) is that it’s happening at all. As historians know well, the output of the five sultanates of the Deccan that flourished between the late 15th and the late 17th century, well before the princely state of Hyderabad came into being, was dazzling. The world’s earliest diamonds were mined in this region, of which the finest came to adorn European, Ottoman and Mughal royalty. Its prized painted and dyed textiles went westwards to Europe and eastwards to Southeast Asia. The Deccan courts attracted Persian painters, European traders, Portuguese doctors, Maratha warriors and military slaves from Ethiopia, who, unusually, came to enter the nobility.
Hookah bars are a recent addition to the nightlife of Indian towns and their coloured glass “sheesha” a recent import from West Asia. But in the Deccan, hookahs have been a part of local life for a long, long time. Some 500 years ago Portuguese traders brought tobacco sourced from the Americas first to Bijapur. The invention of the hookah is, in fact, credited to a hakim in Bijapur. As tobacco found favour in the Deccan, local manufacturers turned out thousands of silver or gold inlaid Bidri work hookah bases for the well-heeled smokers, while those with shallower pockets made do by fashioning the bases out of coconut shells. Public hookah shops, the medieval equivalent of today’s hookah bars, became a real draw.
Danish studio Henning Larsen Architects has unveiled plans for a new mosque and Islamic community centre in Denmark’s capital city. The Islamic Community Centre and Mosque by Henning Larsen Architects will be built in Dortheavej, an area in northern Copenhagen. The 2,890-square-metre building, which will feature a series of interlocking domes, was commissioned by The Islamic Society of Denmark. “The new community centre and mosque at Dortheavej is a modern, Nordic interpretation of Islamic architecture, and brings this meeting of Nordic and Islamic building traditions to Denmark for the first time,” said the architects.
The ninth edition of Art Dubai held from March 17-21, 2015 was both different than and similar to other such events held there in the past. Although the recent Art Fair, like last year, was split into sections of Modern and Contemporary (a divide that needs to be defined objectively and rationally), the presence of Pakistani artists was strongly felt this time. To start with, a Pakistani gallery (Canvas Gallery from Karachi) for the first time participated in Art Dubai’s Contemporary section. Another gallery, Art Chowk like last year had a booth in the Modern section, showcasing works of Shahid Sajjad. Besides these, a number of galleries from South Asia, Middle East, Far East, Europe and USA participated with several Pakistani artists displaying in their spaces.
Read More: Art in Dubai
After a year-long restoration work, the Barah Khamba Tomb in the Nizamuddin heritage area was thrown open to tourists on Saturday. Aga Khan Trust for Culture, in partnership with Archaeological Survey of India, carried out the restoration work. DDA’s Delhi Urban Heritage Foundation co-funded the project. The 16th century Lodhi monument was inaugurated by DDA vice-chairman Balvinder Kumar. “The monument is one of its kind. The restoration work started in May last year. DDA has so far undertaken five such projects with Aha Khan Trust for Culture and we are planning similar projects for the conservation and restoration of the area,” Kumar said.
Read More: Barah Khamba Tomb Restored for Visitors
Delhi’s history is often spoken of in terms of its seven cities. These were fortified settlements, established by various rulers between the 11th and 17th centuries, now swallowed by the sprawling city of today. The sixth Delhi is the Purana Qila, or Old Fort, a 16th-century stone fort near the eastern edge of the city, and a particularly good place from which to tell the story of Delhi’s urban development. There are monuments in Delhi older than the Qila – and there are certainly more impressive ones. But it’s unlikely there exists another place in the city where history runs as deep.
Read More: Delhi’s 16th-century Purana Qila Fort
Art from the Islamic world will be shown in the heart of the British Museum, instead of on the sidelines, in two new galleries funded by a Malaysian foundation which hopes to offset the image created by Islamic militants. The museum, which houses one of the world’s largest collections of art and artefacts, said on Thursday it plans to open two new galleries in its south wing devoted to its extensive collection of art from the Islamic world. Until now works from the collection have been displayed in a gallery tucked away on the north side of the massive building, a long walk from the main entrance.
Just as a public clock might establish the rhythm of some towns and cities, the Djinguereber mosque has set the time for nearly 700 years. Only recent attention on northern Mali – including a 2012 Jihadist occupation – has disrupted the gentle routine built around five prayers a day and an annual “restoration week” that triggers a DIY frenzy in the city’s homes. “We have not had to do major patching up since 2006 when the Aga Khan’s restoration programme began,” says the Djinguereber muezzin, Mahamane Mahanmoudou. “But I can see some small cracks now. We will have to do some work this year,” says the 77-year-old, who is also mason-in-chief of the mosque.
Read More: Timbuktu’s Djinguereber Mosque
The great citadel of Aleppo has the grim distinction of being the world’s only ancient fortress that is back in action today as a garrison and artillery battery in the midst of war. In the ruins of arsenals, dungeons and palaces from earlier centuries, troops loyal to President Bashar al-Assad are wreaking destruction on enemies in the plain below, as though the Middle Ages had never ended. The slits in the walls which used to allow archers to launch their arrows at attackers are now used by Syrian government marksmen with sophisticated sniper rifles, safely taking aim at targets in the streets beneath them. Artillery rounds are regularly fired at Islamist rebel fighters from positions inside the castle grounds.
Read More: Syria’s War-Scarred Citadel of Aleppo
Humayun’s Tomb has got back its finial finally, almost nine months after it broke down in a storm last year. The new finial, which is an exact replica of the original, is made of 99.5 per cent pure copper and has been installed atop the main dome. Aga Khan Trust for Culture (AKTC) will, in the meanwhile, begin repairing the original finial and keep it at the proposed museum at the World Heritage Site.
Read More: Humayun’s Tomb Gets Its Finial Back
While leafing through books on world history, one might come upon the famous portrait of Mehmed the Conquer by renowned Italian artist Gentile Bellini, depicting the sultan under a carved stone arch, a symbol of power since the Roman period. Commissioned by the Venetian Republic to paint portraits of the sultan and his court, Bellini was one of the first Western artists to travel to Istanbul and was a source of inspiration for his following counterparts. The exhibition “The Sultan’s World: The Ottoman Orient in Renaissance Art” explores the perception of Renaissance artists who reflected an imperial culture in their works.
The 16th century Azimganj Serai is on its way to a complete revival. The monument, which is located within the Delhi zoo complex, was in ruins for decades. It has 108 vaults, of which many were crumbling away. And the work to consolidate and stabilize the structure started in phases nearly two years ago. They are being repaired, and restored wherever necessary said sources. The serai is being conserved for the first time.
In circa 1420 craftsmen from the village of Jingdezhen in Jiangxi province created a magnificent blue and white dish which would become known as The Mahin Banu ‘Grape’ Dish. The piece has passed through some of the most distinguished collections ever assembled and now appears in the Important Chinese Works Of Art sale at Sotheby’s New York on 18 March 2015 with an estimate of $2.5/3.5 million.
Read More: The Dish that Travelled the World
See also (Video): The ‘Mahin Banu’ Grape Dish