Curated by: Alessandro Vanoli
A great exhibition that tells the relationship between water and Islam, from its most ancient roots to its many complex developments, up to the most recent needs. Some of the most important European and non-European museums - including the Ashmolean Museum of Art and Archeology in Oxford, the LA Mayer Museum of Islamic Art in Jerusalem, the Benaki Museum in Athens, the Museo de La Alhambra in Granada, the Apostolic Library Vatican, the Bargello National Museum of Florence, the MUCIV - Museum of Civilizations of Rome - have made their precious works available to carry out this project.
Mā ' , a few letters in Arabic. It all starts there.
Starting from the statements of the Koran and subsequent literature, the historical development of the many roles and meanings covered by water and the incarnation of its meanings in Islamic art and artifacts are illustrated.
In fact, an ancient and intimate relationship exists between water and the Islamic world. The climatic reasons explain it only in part: there is an ancient legacy of previous cultures and civilizations, a deep religious sense and many complex social and cultural reasons. Water belongs to our deepest dreams: it evokes motherhood, cleanliness, purity, sensuality, birth and death. This of course applies to every civilization, but in Islam this series of ideas has found a deeper meaning, making water one of the very cornerstones of human existence: a cornerstone as much spiritual as it is social and aesthetic.
The exhibition is a narration through images, artifacts, books and miniatures: technology, everyday life and art, which for centuries have been reflected in the many different uses of water. Thanks to the loans granted by the most important European and non-European institutions, by authoritative private collectors and to the precious works kept at the MAO, the exhibition testifies to the variety and richness of artifacts related to the theme and the use of water. Among the more than 120 artifacts on display, there will be mouths of Syrian fountains, iznik jugs, carpets covering a time span ranging from the sixteenth to the nineteenth century, an Iranian glass bowl from the 9th-10th century, a 12th-13th century scent diffuser from from India, as well as numerous manuscripts. The Syrian canalizations, the gardens of Spain and the baths of Istanbul will be told. But not only. There will also be space to look at the Islamic heritage in the European world: from the sixteenth century to the nineteenth-century orientalism - extraordinary "transformed" objects will find space in the windows, such as the 10th-11th century Fatimid art vase in rock crystal with mount of Florentine manufacture in 1555 that became a reliquary or objects inspired by the Islamic world, such as the Venetian-made barber basin - until we discover that much of that past is not only close to us, but belongs to us intimately.
The exhibition will play with the sound and movement of water, so as to immerse works and visitors in a landscape of sound and visual harmonies. Recalling systems and symbols, the exhibition is divided into four main themes. A path marked by major themes, which serve to underline the common characteristics of this relationship, while showing the importance of the various cultural and regional differences of Islamic worlds. The journey will begin with religious use: the word of the Koran, pilgrimage, prayer, purification. And in this way the public will then enter the second room, for a necessary stop in the hammam, in the bathroom intended as a place of purification and aggregation, to underline its religious, hygienic and social sense. Then we will follow the paths of water up to inside the houses and palaces, in daily life, between sustenance and conviviality, to finally address the theme of supply, aqueducts and fountains. In this way it will be inevitable to finally go out into the open spaces, those of agronomy and the garden, to talk about the countryside, oases and domestic or public spaces used for cultivation and recreation. Technology, daily life and art, which for centuries have been reflected in the many different uses of water. Not to forget how much all this speaks in the present, given that water is today perhaps the most fragile and contested good and that too much of the Muslim world struggles and suffers for access to that resource.