The eighth biennial Hamad bin Khalifa Symposium on Islamic Art has shed light into the diversity of Islamic art by focusing on how it went beyond the Arabian peninsula.
The two-day symposium opened at Virginia Commonwealth University School of the Arts in Qatar (VCUarts Qatar) yesterday on the theme ‘The Seas and the Mobility of Islamic Art’.
“The symposium is an attempt to highlight the growth and transformation of Islamic art and feature how the art simply spread it’s wings to other areas by simply going beyond the geographical barriers,” said Sean Roberts, one of the co-chairs of the symposium and associate professor and director of Art History at VCUarts Qatar.
“It also sheds light into the pivotal role played by seas as both connective tissue and as barriers between intellectual, social and artistic traditions,” he explained.
One of the leading international conference on Islamic art and architecture, the Hamad bin Khalifa Symposium on Islamic Art is co-sponsored by VCUarts, VCUarts Qatar and the Qatar Foundation and has been held every two years since 2004.
The symposium yesterday witnessed panel discussions on ‘Reading, Writing and Picturing the Muslim Port City; Architecture and Urbanism around the Indian Ocean Littoral after 1500’, ‘Seas Imagined and Depicted in Middle Eastern Art, Maps and Geography’, ‘Seas, Mobility, Gifting and Settlement’ and ‘Pots that Talk: Early Abbasid Interconnectivity with the Indian Ocean and China Trade’.
Jochen Sokoly, another co-chair and associate professor of Art History of the Islamic World at VCUarts Qatar, said the symposium is rich and diversified in terms of participation.
“We have got panellists and an audience from across the world. Keenness to know about the academic innovations has drawn them towards Doha,” he said.
As part of the symposium, VCUarts Qatar is hosting an exhibition, ‘The Sea is the Limit’, which brings together works by international artists who concentrate on the issues of refugees, borders, migration and national identity.
The exhibition features works by Halil Altindere, Nidhal Chamekh, Mohamed Sami, Taus Makhacheva, Susan Stockwell and Varvara Shavrova.
Halil’s work ‘Journey to Mars’ addresses the flow of refugees which is presently a global issue while Susan Stockwell, through her ‘Sail Away’ installation, explores the mythological aspects associated with boats as symbols of transition from the material into the spiritual world.
Varvara, who is also the curator of the exhibition, said the artists question the meaning of nationalism, free movement, inclusion and exclusion through painting, drawing, sculpture, video, installation and virtual reality.
The exhibition will come to an end on December 7.

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