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Tribune News Network
One of the world’s most prestigious events on the Islamic art and architecture calendar, the 8th Biennial Hamad bin Khalifa Symposium on Islamic Art, was recently held at Virginia Commonwealth University School of the Arts in Qatar (VCUarts Qatar) in Education City.
The event, themed ‘The Seas and the Mobility of Islamic Art’, featured panel discussions and debates on subjects ranging from ‘Seas Imagined and Depicted in Middle Eastern Art, Maps and Geography’ and ‘Transoceanic Movement, Muslim-Centred Design, and Architecture in the Twentieth and Twenty-First Centuries’ to ‘Islamic Art in 11th-14th Century Chinese Port Cities’.
Eminent scholars from institutions such as Columbia University, University of Pennsylvania, SOAS University of London, University of Vienna and University of Melbourne spoke at the Symposium. It attracted more than 200 attendees over two days from Qatar and places as far afield as Canada, the US and Australia, the largest ever attendance for the Symposium, which was established in 2004.
In his speech welcoming the attendees, VCUarts Qatar’s Dean Amir Berbic said, “We have more than 40 participants, panel organizers, paper presenters and fellows here from all over the world. With rich content, shared viewpoints and open discussions, and a concurrent gallery exhibition, this symposium is meant to be a vibrant forum of exchange for all participants and attendees.”
The Symposium co-chairs were VCUarts Qatar Art History professors Dr Radha Dalal, Dr Jochen Sokoly and Dr Sean Roberts. The Art History programme at VCUarts Qatar is the only undergraduate degree programme of its kind in the Gulf region and offers a distinctive concentration in Islamic art within a global perspective. The programme is designed to focus on the interchange between the Islamic World, the Western World and the non-Islamic cultures of Asia.
“In choosing the ‘seas and mobility’ as this symposium’s theme, we hoped to provide a forum that encompassed the full range and global expanse of Islamic art and culture,” said Dr Sean Roberts, director of Art History at VCUarts Qatar and Symposium co-chair.
The 2019 Hamad bin Khalifa Travel Fellowship Recipients were also announced at the Symposium. The fellowship was created through sponsorship from Qatar Foundation, VCUarts in Richmond, Virginia, and VCUarts Qatar in order to provide financial support to scholars who wished to attend the conference.
The Fellows are Dr Sara Keller, a Junior Fellow at the Max-Weber Centre, University of Erfurt (Germany); Holley Ledbetter, a PhD candidate in the History of Art Department at the University of Michigan; Dr Ridha Moumni, a Fellow at the Center for Middle Eastern Studies at Harvard University; Jenny Peruski, a PhD candidate in the History of Art and Architecture at Harvard University; and Jahfar Shareef Pokkanali, a PhD candidate at the department of Asian and Islamic Art History, University of Bonn.
The symposium included an exhibition at the University’s Gallery, titled ‘The Sea is the Limit’. The exhibition brought together works by international artists who are addressing the issues of refugees, borders, migration and national identity. Using the language of painting, drawing, sculpture, video, installation and virtual reality, the artists explore some of the complex experiences and emotions associated with borders and migration, statelessness and belonging. The exhibition will run until December 7, and is open to the public.
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