Pilgrimage #2 Hajj, journey to the heart of Islam

A Hussain by name I have always had a sincere, though not particularly well educated interest in the middle east and Islam. I would say it’s in fact something simultaneously stronger and vaguer than an interest, more like an aching connection, a shadow, or a ghost limb.
I’ve always been drawn to the art, textiles and photography of the region and more recently the history, geography and politics. This exhibition quite easily took out two hours from my day as it was rich in all of these areas.
The exhibitions appeal comes largely from the intense detail in which the Hajj is documented, arriving at the theme from many directions but consistently with an acutely human perspective. First hand accounts are featured from all over the world and throughout all eras of history; from Ibn Jubayr, whose account of his pilgrimage from Southern Spain in the 1100s is the earliest, to school girl Saleena Nurmohammed , who describes her own pilgrimage in her ten year old eloquence that I found one of the most emotive exhibits.
The exhibition illustrates how Muslims dedication to their religion and it’s traditions have richly advanced the art and technology of the region. To unfamiliar eyes the astrolabe and qibla look like devices from a fantasy world. In fact they are complex compasses, clocks and star maps relating to the position of Mecca and the times of the daily prayers.
The response to the theme was immediately different to what I have experienced before in the space. School groups of head scarved girls from Birmingham showed genuine interest and excitement about what they were seeing. Groups of Muslims were taking guided tours through the artefacts of their own heritage and there was the sense that simply coming to the exhibition was a spiritual act in itself.

“Please forgive me if I have done you wrong in any way, I’m going on hajj” Newsha Tavakolian
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Ariel view of Mecca
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A beautiful example of an Astrolabe
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“Mules carrying gifts for Mecca” c.1790
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“Magnetism” Ahmed Mater
Photogravure etching 2011
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“Al Harith joins a caravan to Mecca and meets Abu Zayd alon the way”
Opaque watercolour and GOLD!
634 AH, Bagdad
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Lunch, onion soup
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