Aga Khan collection takes Berlin, then Toronto

BERLIN — More than 200 items from the Aga Khan’s collection of Islamic treasures — eventually destined for Toronto — are going on show in Berlin in an exhibition spanning a millennium and covering half the globe.

A chestnut leaf delicately inscribed with golden calligraphy greets visitors at the start of the show of works collected by the billionaire philanthropist and illustrating the breadth of Islamic culture.

Dating back to the Ottoman Empire in the 19th century, it is one of the newest pieces presented recently at the Martin Gropius Bau gallery. Exhibits date back as far as a green-glazed pilgrim’s flask from the 7th or 8th century.

The Aga Khan is spiritual leader of 20 million Shia Ismaili Muslims. The exhibition includes 215 items out of a collection totalling roughly 1,000 pieces, whose permanent home in Toronto should be ready by mid-2013.

Organizers hope “to present to our western public the pluralism of the Islamic cultures,” Luis Monreal, the managing director of the Aga Khan Trust for Culture, told reporters.

“We in general view Islam as a single cultural identity and this is simply a wrong perception, because Islam over 13 centuries has been a religion practised by a great diversity of people,” he said.

At the western end of the Islamic world, the exhibition showcases artifacts such as an inlaid scribe’s cabinet and an astrolabe from “al-Andalus,” the area of Spain ruled by the Moors until 1492. It also includes pages from the “blue Qur’an,” inscribed in gold on blue-dyed parchment, from North Africa.

At the other end, an 18th-century Qur’an inscribed in tiny lettering on green cloth from India occupies part of a wall, contrasting with a geometrically styled edition of the Qur’an from the Indonesian island of Sulawesi.

The show, titled “Treasures of the Aga Khan Museum — Arts of the Islamic World,” runs through June 6.

Source: Torronto Sun

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