When I am in Houston, I challenge myself to explore what this sprawling city has to offer. Believe me, there is no end to what can be discovered.
A few days ago I went to an Islamic Arts Festival, and what an eye opener it was. Not only was it a showcase for art created by those who live in the Muslim world, it was an effort by the organizers to promote understanding of a culture and to bring the greater Houston community together. One could not ask for more as art is a common language among many cultures.
Islamic art dates back to the 7th century and no matter when or where it has been created, it has basic similarities. Interestingly, no human figures are depicted as it is feared by many Muslims that this is idolatry which is a sin. Typical are the use of interlacing and geometric patterns. Here, the artist painted his background and then used only Q tips to create the complex pattern.
In addition to paintings ceramics and tiles are common in Islamic art. Both functional and decorative, they are adorned with calligraphy and arabesque designs.
Particularly interesting is metalwork which uses practical objects that are decorated with dense arabesque patterns. This was a favorite piece which the artist described as depicting the places she had lived after leaving Pakistan. In each she had found home, and now she feels that her heart is here. She went on to explain that in her country, many truck drivers spend a good part of a year’s salary decorating their vehicle in such a manner.
Stopping to talk with the various artists provided wonderful insight into a culture about which I wish to know more. To my surprise, I came home with this piece which is not as richly detailed with typical images but has it’s own wonderful story. It is made from circles cut from another painting. It is meant to show that while we are all very much alike there are differences. The beautiful young woman who is the artist went on to tell me she did the piece while going through a heartbreaking divorce. What got her through was her faith symbolized by the painting’s central image of the Kaaba which is the most sacred site in Islam. Located in Saudi Arabia, it is where Muslims are required to perform the Hajj at least once if they are able. I hope that by purchasing her creation I have helped her be one step closer to making the pilgrimage.
Through art one can learn so much, and the Islamic Arts Festival is stunning proof. I am grateful to live in a city where there is such cultural diversity.