بسم الله الرحمن الرحيم
May 29, 2008 10:03 PM   Subscribe

Come, take a ride and look at some of the Islamic Art of the past. Or, you could call it Art of the Islamic World if you're so inclined. If not, then how about taking into account some of the major milestones of Islam throughout the centuries, from past till present (more examples here), including the art of Calligraphy and Architecture. Not to mention the Arab world's contribution to music, both old and new. [Previously mentioned, here, here, here, and here, with a wonderful comment from nickyskye as usual]
posted by hadjiboy (28 comments total) 41 users marked this as a favorite
Um, I wouldn't call the "present (more examples here)" links to be Major Milestones by any stretch though... sorry.

It's been a long time since I've made one of these posts... hey guys! How ya' do'in?
posted by hadjiboy at 10:08 PM on May 29, 2008

Neat. The Turkish calligraphy stuff reminds me very much of Orhan Pamuks My Name is Red, though the art in that had more of an illustrative element.
posted by Artw at 10:23 PM on May 29, 2008

Not every piece of art originated in a middle eastern country is "Islamic" art. I knew a great rug artist back in Iran who was in fact an agnostic. People don't call the 5th symphony of Beethoven or the Dark Side of the Moon album "Christian" Art, and I wish they had the same courtesy toward artists from middle eastern countries with very diverse populations.
posted by lenny70 at 10:27 PM on May 29, 2008

Very nice. Thanks for posting this, and for pointing to nickyskye's comment.
posted by homunculus at 10:41 PM on May 29, 2008

The "new" music link seemed to lean heavily on pop, but if one has a taste for more traditional classical arabic music (that is nevertheless contemporary, being influenced by both "chamber jazz" and modern European "art music"), this is probably as good as place as any to sing the praises of the sublime Tunisian oud player Anouar Brahem.

I see his name came up briefly on this thread, but his noted recordings for the ECM label are all quite beautiful. I'm especially fond of the first CD, Barzakh (from 1990, a haunting, understated and hypnotic recording), and also of Le pas du chat noir (from 2001, which features accordian and conjures something like a noirish cafe in Istanbul or Paris).

More on Brahem here; and there are also some things on YT to listen to.
posted by ornate insect at 10:42 PM on May 29, 2008

Not every piece of art originated in a middle eastern country is "Islamic" art.

Ergo: "Or, you could call it Art of the Islamic World"

Might want to read the post before you comment lenny, or, better yet, click one of the links and actually go through it...
posted by hadjiboy at 10:44 PM on May 29, 2008

I was going to do a Islamic history video round up for a fpp a while ago, but I'll just drop them here instead:

When the Moors Ruled Europe

In the Footsteps of Alexander the Great (In 31 parts!)

The Man Who Walked Across the Earth (In four parts)

Islam: Empire of Faith

An Islamic History of Europe

What the Islamic World Did For Us
posted by empath at 10:50 PM on May 29, 2008 [6 favorites]

I posted the Alexander the Great one because it's largely a travelogue through a lot of (now) Islamic countries -- notable because it was filmed prior to 9/11, and the narrator narrowly escapes from Afghanistan just as the Taliban are taking over.
posted by empath at 10:53 PM on May 29, 2008

I would also like to make special mention the wonderful contemporary Syrian poet who goes by the name of Adonis. Based in Paris since the 1980s, and routinely mentioned as a possible candidate for a Nobel, Adonis (more on him here as well) has been translated into English somewhat (see here and here), and his work is superb.
posted by ornate insect at 11:03 PM on May 29, 2008

I am sorry hadjiboy. The new terminology doesn't work for me either. It doesn't feel all that good to have your country with many thousands years of history be summarized as part of "Islamic World". I mean, what if I started referring to songs on MeFi Music as "Art of the Christian World"?

Maybe I am just bitter. It is not easy growing up a Zoroastrian, Jewish, or an atheist in the "Islamic World".
posted by lenny70 at 11:07 PM on May 29, 2008

Here's a couple of more:

The Crusades

A History of God

Muslim Jesus
posted by empath at 11:09 PM on May 29, 2008

Lenny, get over yourself. The Islamic World is a particular geographic area IN A PARTICULAR TIME which was ruled by the Caliphate, or some other Islamic government. At one point, the Islamic World stretched from India to Spain. Now, it doesn't. In fact, I'd say that at this point it basically includes Iran and Saudi Arabia, as those are the only two major Islamic governments at this point.

You could just as well say that the Roman Empire wasn't Roman because there were a lot of Gauls and Jews, etc, living in it.
posted by empath at 11:11 PM on May 29, 2008

People don't call the 5th symphony of Beethoven or the Dark Side of the Moon album "Christian" Art, and I wish they had the same courtesy toward artists from middle eastern countries with very diverse populations.

Courtesy? It's not like calling something "Islamic" is a slander. This isn't the Free Republic.

If artists in the Middle East during this period of time were free to produce a painting of Mohommad in a bottle of piss, this might make some sense. The influence of Islam on artistic expression of those living under its yoke is pretty heavy-handed.
posted by three blind mice at 11:52 PM on May 29, 2008

We don't have enough people on whose part to get offended we have to invent preferred nomelclature flaps now?
posted by Artw at 11:59 PM on May 29, 2008

This is a lovely place to visit.
posted by Wolof at 12:33 AM on May 30, 2008

Michelle Malkin is furious!
posted by TrialByMedia at 12:40 AM on May 30, 2008

Thanks, indeed, hadjiboy, for your post, and nice to see you back around these parts.

Hardly a day goes by that I look at MetaFilter and don't think of nickyskye. I miss her. She is one of the warmest, brightest, most positive lights here, and I'm a little worried: there hasn't been any update on the Open Letter From Nickyskye site since the first of May. I wonder, does anyone have any news?
posted by flapjax at midnite at 3:55 AM on May 30, 2008 [1 favorite]

Not every piece of art originated in a middle eastern country is "Islamic" art.

The priest that baptized my brother in Isfahan was approached by two young men who said they wanted to know more about Christianity. He said he could meet with them privately at his office and then telephoned his wife that he would be late to the family picnic they had planned, much to her annoyance. Later that evening, a cleaning woman found him on the floor of his office with his throat cut ear-to-ear.

Calling it Islamic Art does not offend me. Lumping it as Arab Art would be far more offensive to my sensibilities.
posted by Pollomacho at 6:36 AM on May 30, 2008

Lenny, I for one feel ya. As an Iranian atheist, I too have a weird reaction to the Iranian art of the past 1300 odd years being classified as "Islamic", even if it's an accurate description in most cases. Persians have always "borrowed' freely from other cultures, but when it comes to the Islamic/Arabic influence in Persian art, it sometimes looks indistinguishable from (or at least very similar to) the art of a few dozen other Muslim countries. Furthermore, throughout the millennia Persian artists have struggled with the censorship foisted upon them by clerics. Of course censorship and other limitations placed on art can actually make artists more creative in trying to convey their art and represent their ideas. And I do realize that Islam has had positive effects on art, science, and society in general in Iran as well, just as the same thing can be said of Christianity in Europe and the Americas, but imo the bad has outweighed the good thus far.

My cousin who is visiting from Iran showed me a bunch of pictures of her and her friends on their trip to Isfahan, and there are fucking domes and minarets everywhere you look. If they're not mosques, they're Islamic-style buildings and bazaars. "Oh, yet another historic mosque in Isfahan? This one is so different from the 67 other mosques we looked at."

And to make things worse, my female cousin and her friends were obviously wearing the hijab in the photos because they were out in public. Looking at pictures of young women wearing the hijab (and knowing how they're discriminated against under Sharia law) and posing in front of mosques, one cannot help but find the Islamic influence smothering, or at least I can't help but feel that way. Oh and btw, my cousin informed me that Arabic (in addition to scripture) has been a compulsory subject in Iranian schools for many years now.

I have no problem with students being given the choice to learn Arabic as long as it's an elective.
posted by Devils Slide at 7:25 AM on May 30, 2008

How can we so demonize a people whose very language is music?* Beautiful post, hadjiboy. I need to set aside some time to explore it and do it justice. You win Metafilter today.
posted by nax at 7:32 AM on May 30, 2008

The "new" music link has the most obnoxious ads ever that simply fade in randomly. It also doesn't include my favorite Algerian singer.
posted by mike3k at 7:47 AM on May 30, 2008

And it irks me that certain scientists, artists, writers, and philosophers are claimed by Muslims as one of their ow, when they in fact struggled against and were hampered by religion throughout their careers. For instance, the brilliant medieval Persian inventor, doctor, and polymath Razi is one of the people Muslims routinely use as an example of a fellow Muslim who has made great contributions to mankind (some Arabic websites even claim he was an Arab), when he clearly renounced religion in his writings, going as far as calling all prophets "billy goats". In order to carryout his research, Razi had to sneak around and perform autopsies covertly because they were forbidden under Islamic law at the time.
posted by Devils Slide at 8:02 AM on May 30, 2008

I love Kufic calligraphy. For a modern spin on it, see the Parisian street art of L'Atlas.
posted by Nelson at 9:18 AM on May 30, 2008

The Alhambra is one of my favourite places in Spain (despite the swarms of tourists). The architecture and intricate decorative work of the palace is absolutely stunning.
posted by Kabanos at 9:44 AM on May 30, 2008 [1 favorite]

Nice to see you back on your normal excellent form hadjiboy. I think qawwali music should get a mention here as it is a traditition over 700 years and is still going strong. I'm no flapjax (and yes nickyskye would love this post) but here is Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan be sure to check out the related videos as well; here he is again with Michael Brooks. Now who said Muslims could not have fun and their god as well? It's only the fundamentalists and politicians who fuck it all up as usual.
posted by adamvasco at 9:45 AM on May 30, 2008 [1 favorite]

In order to carryout his research, Razi had to sneak around and perform autopsies covertly because they were forbidden under Islamic law at the time.

Yes, thank heavens this never happened to scientists in Christian countries.

This sounds like the invisible backpack thread. What's being shown here is art. Noting more and nothing less. But because these articles are written in English for a western audience the authors feel the need to distinguish it from the art of the art produced by the readers' native culture. Thus, "Islamic Art". For all I know Chinese scholars may very well refer to anything produced in Europe from 1100-1800 as "Christian Art". And it would be a good description.

Anyway, what a stupid derail. This is great stuff and this is a great post.
posted by GuyZero at 1:15 PM on May 30, 2008 [1 favorite]

I've always admired the intricate arches, DNA-like patterns of arabesques, and in general what I've always refered to as (right or wrong) Islamic archtecture...and Ooooo..neat! Thank you for this post!
posted by Kronos_to_Earth at 3:08 PM on May 30, 2008

It vaguely saddens me that so much of European "history" as written constructs the mediaeval period as the Dark Ages, a time "between" great eras when centralised empires retreated or were anaemic, artistic output diminshed, and State-sponsored research and engineering languished. The narrative usually revolves around intrepid monks, many of them Irish, who persevered "preserving" knowledge through scriptoria, producing illuminated books until the great "re-awakening" of the Renaissance. The reality is that much of their output seems to have involved copying and recopying the approved Christian texts ad nauseum (with the occasional timeout to produce the odd copy of the stultifying Consolatio Philosophiae) while the climate in Christian-controlled urban centres was distinctly hostile to independent art and science. Further south, in the territories controlled by States which were usually nominally Islamic, science, research, art, and exploration was taking place at an amazing rate (especially in research centres founded by the neoplatonists expelled by Rome following the Christian takeover). There seems to have been a healthy network of patrons and occasionally surprisingly long-lived State-sponsored projects. Trade networks centred in Islamic countries extended across three continents and during their lives merchants, scientists, and artists regularly travelled and exchanged letters between Islamic Spain, equatorial Africa, the Middle East, India, central Eurasia, and China. The reality is that northern and eastern "European" art and science was moribund, isolated, and barely worth mentioning, while in the southern parts of Europe controlled by nominally Islamic States, it was a whole different story, full of accomplishment, invention, synthesis, and novelty.
posted by meehawl at 4:35 PM on May 30, 2008 [1 favorite]

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