Muslims Breathing Art at IslamExpo
Wandering through the galleries, exploring exhibitions, attending female-only fashion shows, tasting great food, meeting the expo. chefs, watching movies and theater and comedy performances, listening to nasheeds, participating in art textiles, and taking a journey back in time through the interactive Islamic history timeline. That is — simply! — how IslamExpo visitors’ time was spent during the four-day event. IslamExpo — Europe’s largest celebration of Islamic heritage, culture, and traditions, all under one roof — has opened its doors on July 14 and lasted for four days with a vast space dedicated to all kinds of arts.
Adam Williamson is a British Muslim artist who works as a seasonal lecturer at Birkbeck College, University of London. He has been commissioned by HRH the Prince of Wales, Oxford University, and the UK’s Foreign and Commonwealth Office in Vienna.
He remarked, “IslamExpo is a very influential artistic experience. Actually, this is my first time to attend and participate, but it won’t be the last.”
“I’m organizing some workshops for IslamExpo’s visitors — children and adults. I train them to make some Islamic architectural drawings, and this is my basic professional job — a British Muslim artist.”
Suq Stories Performance
IslamExpo had unique theater performers participating. Over the course of four days, more than seven plays were performed.
The 2006 Khayaal performances at IslamExpo were truly a memorable experience and a celebration of Muslim future with visitors queuing up before each performance and demanding a greater number of performances during the day.Set in a traditional coffee house amid a bustling suq (Arabic for: marketplace) replicated at IslamExpo, suq stories have been especially devised to celebrate the relationship between marketplaces and storytelling in the Muslim World.
Muzz Khan, Khayaal performer, told IslamOnline.net (IOL),”This is my first time here as I didn’t participate in IslamExpo 2006 but I heard a lot about its success.”
“Our performances are based on some Islamic stories that are considered as a folklore. We’ve been performing this art for 10 years, and thank God, we’ve a lot of fans in the UK, where we are based. Moreover, we are looking forward to traveling abroad and performing in other countries as we believe that we have to share Muslim stories with all the Muslims and the non-Muslims as well, which may build a bridge of understanding.”
Combining street and stage theater and employing a range of theatrical techniques and devices, both traditional and contemporary, suq stories offer dramatic interludes of fun, entertainment, and education to visitors of all ages.
Islamic Graffiti Art
Mohamed Ali, an urban spiritual artist whose art is a fusion between graffiti and Islamic art, presented a huge mural with the following written on it in Arabic “As-salamu `alaykum” at the beginning of the event. He then gave the visitors an opportunity to share their thoughts on this placard by writing down what they think about peace. “Peace” being one part of the Muslim greeting “Peace be upon you” (i.e. As-salamu `alaykum).“My art counters the often-heard term ‘clash of civilizations’ by melding the grace and eloquence of Islamic art with the rawness of graffiti, taking urban art into a spiritual dimension. Though I’ve been an artist for more than 10 years, I’ve started to focus on Islam and building bridges between Muslims and the others only a few years ago,” stated Ali.
Ali’s exhibitions have taken place both nationally and internationally from Dubai to Denmark, and his unique spiritual murals have graced walls from the UK to the US.
Cookery Artistic Zone
Another kind of art presented also for the first time at IslamExpo is the art of cooking. Live cooking demonstrations took place at the cookery zone throughout the four-day event. The zone was hosted and led by Mark Earnden from ExpoChef, which is well-established for the promotion of healthy eating across the UK and the Republic of Ireland.
The cooking demonstrations were led by chefs who are trained to entertain, inspire, and give audiences of all ages the confidence of cooking and experimenting with healthy food, in a funny and interactive way.
Husetin Ozer, a British Muslim chef of Turkish origin, highlighted the importance of cooking and having a cookery zone, “Cooking is definitely an art, and it has to do with whether you cook to eat or to work and to gain money”
“I cook to eat, and I believe I’m an artist,” Ozer added.
Silonia, a British Muslim henna designer of Indian origin, also participated in IslamExpo this year. Dozens of Muslim and non-Muslims ladies were around Silonia all the time.
“I believe the art of henna is an Islamic Indian one. I’ve been working with henna for some years, and now my mother works with me as I usually get a lot of job offers for all occasions — such as, birthday parties, baby-showers, weddings, henna parties, and henna workshops.”
No.-One Nasheed Singer
“I’ve been singing for five years with two albums out so far, and thank God, I’ve given some concerts in the US and south Africa and one this summer in Canada,” Muhammad said.
“I’m trying to make use of my popularity among Western Muslims, especially British ones, as a singer to teaching children some Islamic stories.”
Interfaith Sports Zone
Attended by Pakistani cricketers Inzamam Ul-Haq and Saeed Anwar and by South African cricketer Hashim Amla, IslamExpo’s sports zone gathered dozens of the visitors to meet celebrities from the cricket and football world and observe football tournaments and martial arts demonstrations.
One of the remarkable activities that took place in the sports zone was the 5-a-side interfaith football tournament where rabbis, imams, and priests from different cities competed with one another.“I accepted IslamExpo’s invitation with no hesitation as I believe that we can live, interact, and play peacefully with Muslims and non-Muslims.”
He sees his participation as a tool to remove the misunderstandings and give all of the players a chance to know the attitudes of different players from different religious and cultural background.
On the other hand, Emdad Rahman, a British Muslim who was one of the Muslim coaches participating in this tournament, found the experience “a very enriching one.” He looks forward to participating again in the coming IslamExpo, and he hopes that the number of Jew and Christian participants would increase.
At the end of the event, IslamExpo’s visitors left holding fresh ideas, thoughts, and information on how beautiful Islamic art is.