Participants in Chicago
In July 2018, MALA launched an ongoing series of seminars and other events centered around Islamic art to continue our exploration of the Muslim American journey.
MALA’s inaugural event, conceptualized and led by MALA community members, was held in Chicago in July, and focused on tessellation art – the instantly recognizable swirl of geometry that is so common across north Africa and the Middle East.
The afternoon started with a conversation about the diverse origins of Islamic tessellation art – including the Greeks, Romans, and Sasanians in Iran – and the role of Islamic mathematicians, astronomers, and scientists in driving the style to its perfection. The mathematical elegance of these designs is that no matter how elaborate, they are always based on grids, and even amateur artists can build a remarkable visual spread using only a compass and ruler.
After this discussion, attendees – each of whom received a compass and ruler – got to work on their own masterpieces! Led by Gabriel and Aqsa, this wait-listed seminar was geared towards both those interested in the cultural and artistic dimensions of Islam as well as anyone interested in art more generally.
Meanwhile, in New York City in August, MALA partnered with the American Sephardi Federation to host “Maktuv,” an evening of inter-cultural art. As cognates, 'Maktoob' and 'K’tuv' mean “written” in Arabic and Hebrew, and the class used calligraphy to explore the significance of Arabic in Islam and Hebrew in Judaism, as well as the close relationship between both Semitic languages.
This hands-on workshop, which was also waitlisted, was a welcoming space for attendees to share their personal connections with the holy languages of two faiths and to engage with these two languages through the beauty of calligraphy.
This seminar was led by Ruben. Originally from Uzbekistan, Ruben comes from the native Persian-speaking Jewish population of Central Asia. This community — the Bukharian Jews — has lived alongside their Muslim neighbors for 1,300 years, engaging in cultural and intellectual commerce.
MALA is excited to host more of these hands-on, arts-centric events in the coming year, including a special tessellation seminar for architects in Chicago in October, and an exhibit of rising young Muslim American photographers. MALA is also collecting artist stories to share alongside these events.
See the full photo gallery from our New York art event on Flickr.
Participants in New York