CAMEA Conference Day 1: Art History and History

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Day one saw the opening of the much anticipated Centre for Asian and Middle Eastern Architecture (CAMEA) conference, ‘Ilm: Science, Religion, and Art in Islam. The opening took place in Gallery 19B in The Art Gallery of South Australia with speeches delivered by the Director of The Art Gallery of South Australia, Nick Mitzevich, Board Member of the Art Gallery of South Australia Foundation, Michael Abbott AO, and Founding Director of CAMEA, Professor Samer Akkach. Next, conference speakers and attendees settled comfortably into The Braggs Building, the location of the conference lectures.

‘Ilm and Art History

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Emeritus Professor Virginia Hooker

Emeritus Professor Virginia Hooker from The Australian National University: ‘By the Pen!’ (Q 68:1) – Spreading Knowledge in Indonesia through Calligraphic Art

Lecture synopsis: Emeritus Professor Hooker highlighted the calligraphic practices in Indonesia, focusing on the work of Dr Didin Sirojuddin whose oeuvre is filled with Quranic values presented in a pleasant and colourful fashion.

Interesting fact: Certain calligraphy schools in Indonesia are mixed gender!

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James Bennett

James Bennett, Curator of Asian Art at The Art Gallery of South Australia: Patterns and Tawhid in Indian Ocean Trade Cloth Exchanges

Lecture synopsis: Using the Indian and Indonesian textiles at The Art Gallery of South Australia as examples, Bennett discussed the origins and development of ceplokan, the Javanese batik patterns, and how the designs carry both Islamic and specific court textile traditions.

Interesting fact: Contrary to popular belief, Indian textiles actually copied Javanese designs (rhombic patterns)!

Shaha Parpia, PhD candidate at The University of Adelaide: The Mughal Shikar – A Pursuit of Knowledge

Lecture synopsis: Parpia demonstrated how Mughal hunts aided the development of science, technology and art during the era. An example Parpia used was learning the thickness of rhinoceroses through long distance archery.

Interesting fact: The Mughals use cheetah dung as rat repellent!

‘Ilm and History

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Professor Amir Zekrgoo

Professor Amir Zekrgoo from The International Islamic University Malaysia: Science of the Self as Depicted in the Story of the Snake Catcher: Rumi’s Mathnawi in Context

Lecture synopsis: Professor Zekrgoo utilised elements from Rumi’s ‘The Story of the Snake Catcher’ to explore Islamic ideas of nafs, or the self. An example is the usage of metaphors, such as a “black flood” and the “predatory wolf” to refer to individuals with negative qualities.

Interesting fact: Professor Zekrgoo is a hugely talented artist! He accompanied every slide with an illustration or doodle penned by himself!

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Dr Susan Scolly

Dr Susan Scolly, independent art historian and curator: ‘Ilm and the Architecture of Happiness ‘: The Ottoman Imperial Palace at Edirne/Adrianople , 1451-1877

Lecture synopsis: Dr Scolly used the architecture of the imperial palace at Edirne to argue the point that the Ottomans’ were fixated on the Islamic ideals of beauty. Vibrant manuscripts and illustrations of the luxurious palace architecture and grounds supported Dr Scolly’s thesis.

Interesting fact: When the capital moved from Edirne to Istanbul, the imperial palace was retained as a “pleasure palace” and military ground!

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Perri Sparnon

Perri Sparnon, Research Assistant at The University of Adelaide: Seeing and Knowing: The Images and Modes of Visual Perception in Islam

Lecture synopsis: Sparnon successfully refuted Hans Belting’s assertion that Western renaissance art is the pinnacle of artistic achievement by proving that Islamic societies in the fourteenth and sixteenth centuries used mathematics and science to inform Islamic art.

Interesting fact: Scientific illustrations reveal that Islamic societies were at the forefront of the study of light!

Keynote Speaker

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Dr Stefano Carboni

Dr Stefano Carboni, Director of the Art Gallery of Western Australia: A Short History of Images in Islamic Art

Lecture Synopsis: Dr Carboni thoroughly went through the meaning and history of Islamic art and its many forms, also touching on the perception of Islamic art, such as the depiction of the Prophet Muhammad.

Interesting fact: Today amongst contemporary Islamic artists, calligraphy isn’t solely used to demonstrate Quranic values, but also to delineate social and gender issues!

Tomorrow: ‘Ilm and Science, ‘Ilm and Religion and ‘Ilm and Society

Masya Zabidi



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