07 November 2021

VCUarts Qatar Brings the Ninth Biennial Hamad bin Khalifa Symposium on Islamic Art to the Public

Online event to focus on ‘The Environment and Ecology in Islamic Art and Culture’

VCUarts Qatar has announced that the ninth biennial Hamad bin Khalifa Symposium on Islamic Art will be held online from November 8-15, 2021, and will focus on ‘The Environment and Ecology in Islamic Art and Culture’. Presentations are scheduled for the evening, allowing for greater engagement with the global audience, especially those in the region.

The symposium – which takes place every two years – addresses the histories of environmentally-oriented visual cultures that traverse geological time, from early settlements across core Islamic lands to the broader Muslim diaspora that characterizes the present.

The theme should resonate with academicians and the wider community alike, as the effects of climate change and global warming have been recurring topics of debate and discussion in boardrooms, through international meets, and all the way to school debates.

Given the universal relevance of the theme, the 2021 event saw organizers Radha Dalal, Interim Director of Art History and Associate Professor of Islamic Art, VCUarts Qatar; Jochen Sokoly Associate Professor of Islamic Art, VCUarts Qatar; and Sean Roberts, Lecturer in Early Modern Art, University of Tennessee, modifying the open invitation process employed in 2019, to include voices from outside the field.

“We opted for a blended approach in both inviting specialists to initiate the discussions and seeking proposals from the wider community of academics, artists, curators, and activists to further the discourse,” Dalal said.

“The response to the call for proposals was overwhelming with competitive submissions from nearly every part of the globe. So much so that selecting the most relevant papers from this high-quality pool was in itself a challenge. A total of 17 speakers will discuss, debate, and explore several outstanding topics ranging in diversity from Umayyad rural landscapes to eco-mosques in contemporary Tanzania.”

The exciting line-up will see the opening address delivered by Nasser Rabbat on The Quest for Thermal Delight. A renowned educator and architect, Rabbat is the Aga Khan Professor and Director of the Aga Khan Program for Islamic Architecture at Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

Other presentations include D. Fairchild Ruggles’ Cultivars and Calamities in Al-Andalus: On Nature and Human Will; Amanda Boetzkes’ Behind the Sun: The Theater of Oil Expenditure; T. J. Demos’ Climate Justice Now! Art and Environment in the Middle East; Farid Esmaeil’s Context as ‘Form’ Generator; Anna M. Gades’ Muslim Arts and Material Ethics; and Rebecca Zorach’s “A luminous golden spirit owns us”: Legal Sculpting and the Rights of Nature. Additionally, the Symposium will feature panel discussions that explore the intersections between art and ecology within a historical framework, and in the context of today’s climate emergency.

Since it was first held in 2004, each edition of the Hamad bin Khalifa Symposium on Islamic Art has addressed significant themes and issues in understanding the visual arts of the Islamic lands. The symposium is co-sponsored by Virginia Commonwealth University in Richmond, VCUarts Qatar and Qatar Foundation and has been held every two years since 2004, and has grown to be one of the most prestigious events focusing on Islamic art, in the process making the latest and most interesting scholarship in this growing field available and accessible to a wide audience, ranging from students and scholars, to artists, architects, designers and the interested public.

Photographs by Raviv Cohen.

Dr. Radha Dalal, Interim Director of Art History and Associate Professor of Islamic Art, VCUarts Qatar

Dr. Jochen Sokoly Associate Professor of Islamic Art, VCUarts Qatar

Dr. Sean Roberts, Lecturer in Early Modern Art, University of Tennessee

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