There are many films and documentaries about the visual arts of the Muslim world in the Alchemiya library. From Islamic art history and traditional craft, to contemporary art and photography from Muslim artists, here are five films that present just some of the variety in our collection.
Darat al Funun is one of the Arab world’s most important and longstanding champions of contemporary art in the whole region. Built around the site of a Byzantine church this Jordanian gallery, research centre and hub for Arab art overlooks the old city of Amman. The collection and the many workshops, gatherings and events it holds offer insights into the ancient civilizations that settled in the city, and the more recent political events that have shaped the region and its art.
Darat al-Funun, The House of Art was made in 2013 to celebrate
the 25th anniversary of the gallery’s opening. Narrated by founder, Suha Shoman, this thoughtful film tells its story, and the inextricably linked story of the Khalid Shoman Foundation. Using archive material and testimony from contemporary artists, this documentary shows how philanthropy, passion and dedication came together to create this lynchpin of art, education and creative development. It is amazing to see how Darat Al Funun emerged from an ancient site that had been ignored for decades and required major and careful archaeological preservation work. The historical record contained in the archaeology of the site makes it relevant to all as a modern symbol of tolerance. The ancient monuments and mosaics, now fully restored, form part of the Darat Al Funun compound and sit alongside the more contemporary creative expressions of the region.
Geometry is seen as sacred because it contains within it universal and unchanging laws that repeat in patterns throughout all manifestations of nature and creation. It is an art form of order and beauty that presents a way of comprehending and visualising the infinite. This short film looks at what underlies sacred geometry and its role in defining our path to knowledge.
“Geometric Art has fascinated me for a long time”, says artist and filmmaker Dearing Wang. “In this video I wanted to demonstrate how geometric form connects the different layers of our realities and I wanted to inspire reflection on the connections that are shown here.”
Thus visually lyrical, short documentary explores the skill and artistry of Indian craftsmen who work with Arabic carvings of lapis lazuli, which they then inlay and highlight with gold leaf. When assembled they form inscriptions from the Quran that can extend along two and a half square kilometres of marble. To be immersed in the daily routines of these craftsmen in their workshops is a rare gift. It is also a pause for reflection on just how much we take the inscriptions and facades on mosques and monuments for granted. Read more about this meditative and aesthetically breathtaking film here.
Peter Sanders began his career in the mid 1960s and became one of London’s key photographers of rock musicians. However, in 1970 he set off for India, cameras in hand and travelled for seven months. This trip became a spiritual odyssey that led him onto Morocco and thereafter to Makkah and Madinah, where he photographed the hajj at a time when few professional photographers had access to Islam’s holiest sanctuaries. Continuing to travel far and wide, Peter Sanders has built up a photographic archive of well over a quarter of a million transparencies from forty countries around the world. The Art of Seeing is a project designed by Peter to teach and instil the ability to tell a story through pictures from people who have mastered their craft. The project creates such an environment in different places in the world where everyone, from the beginner to the expert, may benefit from Peter’s vast knowledge and experience of photography and story telling.
Ebru is an art form that originated in Central Asia and was developed in the Ottoman Empire of the fifteenth century. Traditionally, this paper was used for borders on Ottoman panels and miniatures, and for the inside covers and flyleaves of books.
Made by Seyit Uygur, without any commentary or explanation, Turkish Ebru is a delightful little film that allows you to see the art of paper marbling very close up. It is a beautiful and engrossing three minutes of absolute magic, as a multiplicity of colours swirl and move into shapes and patterns right before your eyes!