IAMM: Showcasing Southeast Asia's Muslim heritage
By Muhammed Noushad
Set in the middle of a lush greenish ambience, a few hundred meters away from Kuala Lumpur old railway station and very close to the majestic national mosque and the Islamic Center, the Islamic Arts Museum Malaysia (IAMM) is a highly engaging and dynamic place to visit. On May 18th 2016, the International Museum Day, when this writer reached the main lobby of IAMM, it was bustling with scores of school children and youngsters, thanks to the varied educational activities the museum authority had organized for students.
The admission was free for the day and all floors were crowded: mostly Malay school children and Malaysian Chinese youngsters. And a few foreigners, too. Young curators and senior conservationists took visitors for guided tours on different floors. In every gallery and almost all corners you hear curators introducing exhibits to visitors either in Malay or English.
Children visiting the Museum
Children, wearing different school uniforms, were finding the joy of creating exquisite and intricate arabesque patterns on ceramics, textiles, glass and their own hands. Special exhibitions and workshops were available. An otherwise calm and quiet Wednesday was fully charged now, as the museum day celebrations kept the entire museum staff of all departments very busy organizing things. In total, a festive mood.
In the special gallery on the ground floor, an ongoing in-house exhibition set a mystical mood for a visitor interested in Islamic mysticism. Named after Dalai’l Al Khayrat, a popular prayer book written by the 15th century Moroccan Sufi master Imam Al Jazuli, the exhibition was full of exotic and antique prayer manuscripts collected from different Muslim lands, across 16th to 19th centuries. All of them, in different calligraphic styles and geographically specific decorative patterns, depicted the meticulous and meditative perfection of Muslim craftsmen who lived across centuries and continents, working on the same text written by a great Sufi. Another example of a text literally transcending through time and space, with a lot of pious veneration and mystical aesthetics attached to it.
Curator Zulkifli Ishak
Rozela Mohamad Dahlan, manager of the education department of the museum, was leading the educational activities on the workshop hall of the museum; she was being helped by her colleagues, volunteers, school teachers etc. A vibrant Malay lady, Rozela briefed the main attractions of the day: Learn about Geometric Pattern, Hand Painting, Creative Art Corner, Qasidah Performance, Arts and Crafts Corner, Storytelling, Arabic Calligraphy Demonstration, Meet the Little Artist etc.
Rozela also talked about the regular activities of the museum, which included weekend sessions to teach calligraphy, percussion, hand painting and lot more. Many children and youngsters are benefitted and given orientation to their own aesthetical and cultural traditions through these programmes, she believes.
Decorative works on the dome of IAMM