IWA Islamic World of Art | Issue #6 - Autumn 2020

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Cover Story

UYGHUR CULTURAL RESISTANCE In China, the slow and tragic deletion of the Uyghurs through a terrifying process of ethnical cleansing is putting at risk millions of human lives and thousands of years of civilization in Central Asia.

A Magazine on Islamic art Autumn 2020 Vol. 6


Half of the moon is dark, the other half is bright. Uyghur proverb


Editorial

2021 Calls for Human Rights in China I’m writing this editorial on the day when Joseph Robinette Biden Jr. has been declared 46th president of the United States. This is a historical moment that puts an end to four years of aggressive, reckless, and divisive politics carried out by the former president Donald Trump. It’s a historical moment for gender equality, as Kamala Harris is the first woman—and woman of color—elected vice president of the United States. Climate activists and the European Union breathe a sigh of relief for what they see as a new chapter of balanced and constructive relations with the first power overseas, especially on the most urgent challenges of our times— climate change, the health crisis, and an economic slump. But what about China? How will Biden deal with the thorny Chinese issue? The question of the new administration’s diplomatic approach to China is not secondary. Not only is the approach critical because of the economic threat that China represents for the Western world but also for the need to draw a common international strategy to actively fight Chinese abuses against minorities. In this issue’s cover story, we decided to shed light on one of the most tragic and terrible violations of human rights that are happening now on a large scale: the imprisonment of the Uyghurs and other Islamic minorities in the Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region (XUAR), occupied by China since 1949, and the deletion of their millennial civilization. These people are detained—by force and without any trial—in facilities that the Chinese regime calls ‘’vocational education and training centers’’ to re-educate Islamic extremists and terrorists. Vast evidence provided by satellite imagery, reports, official documents, and interviews with former prisoners and eyewitnesses has shown that these places are high-security facilities surrounded by high walls, watchtowers, and barbed wire. They are far from the idea of ‘’schools’’ where people voluntarily go for personal and professional training. Nevertheless, China insists on the vocational orientation of these centers. ‘’These are schools,’’ mechanically repeat the Chinese teachers and personnel to the few selected journalists admitted in the camps. According to credible sources—among which there are journalists, researchers, and activists—Chinese authorities are currently detaining from 1,8 to more than 3 million Uyghurs in concentration camps. It’s obviously hard to determine the exact number of people imprisoned for the lack of official reports from the Chinese government, but two independent key studies—one from the social scientist Adrian Zenz and

by Sara Ibrahim, Editor-in-Chief

the other from the Washington, D.C.-based nonprofit Chinese Human Rights Defenders—estimated that in 2018 more than one million people were probably in camps. And since then, the situation has degenerated in the XUAR. At the end of 2019, the New York Times published the ‘’Xinjiang Papers’’, 400 pages of internal leaked information—‘’one of the most significant leaks of government papers from inside China’s ruling Communist Party in decades,’’ stated the US newspaper—that documents how mass detention and repression are organized and perpetrated in the Uyghur region. Precise instructions were given to party officials to justify and hide the real coercive nature of these ‘’reeducation’’ operations. Now, we are getting to 2021 and the situation isn’t any better. Recently, the Australian Strategic Policy Institute released the Xinjiang Data Project. Almost 400 sites of detention in the XUAR, including re-education camps, prisons, and detention centers, were identified with satellite imaging. The results of this research and the database of images are available online and prove that the construction of new facilities or the expansion of existing ones have been brought forward since 2017, and even in 2019 and 2020, despite Chinese authorities claiming in July 2019 that most of the inmates had returned to society. Facts disprove these declarations and show, on the contrary, the intention of Xi Jinping’s leadership to expand and scale up the mass detention and crackdown. Activist Rushan Abbas, founder and executive director of Campaign for Uyghurs, stated that ‘’more than three million Uyghurs are detained in concentration camps because of their ethnic identity. Millions more are literal slaves in factories across China. Yes, the Chinese regime has once again normalized and glorified slavery in the modern age,’’ as reported by the Economic Times at the end of September. There’s no time to lose if we want to save an entire ethnic group from eradication and millions of people from brainwashing—in the best of the cases—forced and illegal detention, abuses, tortures, slavery, and genocide. The president of the United States, the most powerful country in the world and one of the first Western nations that denounced the Uyghur repression in China, could play a leading role in putting China under pressure for its ruthless ethnical cleansing methods. IWA Islamic World of Art supports the Uyghur cause by raising awareness of the tragic events happening in Western China. We devoted this issue not only to Uyghur’s history, civilization, and current facts but also to its colorful art and strong imagery that put the female figure of the mother at the center. We dedicate this issue especially to the first victims of Chinese repression, women, in the conviction that we can’t remain silent in front of brutality and human rights violations. Art is the finest means of resistance.


Colophon

ABOUT IWA Islamic World of Art is a magazine on Islamic art and culture. It covers art, architecture, history, and culture of the Middle East and the Arab-Islamic world. Each issue includes features, reportage, commentary, images, and reviews. EDITION IWA Islamic World of Art, Autumn 2020, volume 6 Released in November 2020 ISSN 2589-3459 EDITORS-IN-CHIEF Giulia Gallini, Sara Ibrahim COPY EDITOR Karen Barrett-Wilt, Laurie Rawlins CONTRIBUTING WRITERS Sofia Bacchini, James Blake Wiener, Bilgehan Kรถhler, Dilnur Reyhan, Latino Taddei CONTRIBUTING ARTISTS AND PHOTOGRAPHERS Tammam Azzam, Jason Florio, Martin Munkรกcsi, Linny Morris, Marwayit Hapiz, Jennifer Hayes, Valdemar Anthony Kornholt, Gulnaz Tursun. DESIGN & LAYOUT Andrea Marino, Giulia Gallini, Raffaello Cuccuini SPECIAL THANKS TO: Abdurehim Gheni, Leslee Michelsen, Bibliomondo Famiglie Volontarie


IWA Islamic World of Art

COPYRIGHT: Authors, photographers, artists, IWA Magazine All views expressed are those of the respective contributors. All photographs and illustration material are the copyright property of the photographers, artists, and/or their estates, and in the publications in which they have been published. Every effort has been made to contact copyright holders. Any copyright holders we have been unable to reach or to whom inaccurate acknowledgment has been made are invited to contact us. The partial or total reproduction of this publication is consented for noncommercial purposes, provided that the original copyright notice and this notice are included, and the source is clearly acknowledged. Any reproduction or use of all or a portion of this publication in exchange for financial consideration of any kind is prohibited without permission in writing from the publisher. PATTERN Uyghur lattice metalwork in the Friday Mosque of Khotan, XUAR, inspires the pattern used in this edition of IWA Islamic World of Art. TYPEFACES Montserrat (Julieta Ulanovsky) Zilla Slab (Peter BiÄžak and Nikola Djurek) Orator STD (John Scheppler) PAPER This issue of IWA Islamic World of Art is printed on Extraprint, a natural paper certified by FSC.

EDITORIAL ADDRESS IWA Publishing Loodskotterhof 13 1034CK Amsterdam, NL www.iwamag.org editors@iwamag.org


Contents 12-15

30-37

In the Qur’an, beauty has a special place. The beauty of the creation and of God are conceptualized and powerfully represented by the written word, which reveals its divine and aesthetic nature through the art of calligraphy.

Migration and the wind of change: the role of the artist, and of museums in the spirit of humanitarian aid.

Beauty, God, and the Qur’an

Migration and Art

by Bilgehan Köhler

by Giulia Gallini and Sara Ibrahim

18-27

Islamic Revolution and Iranian Children’s Literature The Iranian Revolution radically changed the political structure of the country and caused a deep break in the Persian collective imagination, overcoming imperial ideology of the Pahlavi dynasty who ruled Iran until 1979. The revolution left its mark on all social and cultural fields, children’s literature included.

by Latino Taddei

A Magazine on Islamic art Autumn 2020 Vol. 6

Cover Story

40-47

The Power of Cultural Resistance A cultural and physical genocide is going on in the Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region (XUAR), occupied by China since 1949. The slow and tragic deletion of the Uyghurs through a terrifying process of ethnical cleansing is putting at risk millions of human lives and thousands of years of civilization in Central Asia.

by Sara Ibrahim


IWA Islamic World of Art

In-Depth

48-52

Uyghurs in China An interview with Abdurehim Gheni on life in the Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region: from personal and family narratives to the situation of a whole community.

by Giulia Gallini

Interview

54-59

62-69

Shangri La

Hezbollah and the City

A conversation with the curator of the only museum dedicated to the arts of the Islamic world in the United States.

In Beirut Hezbollah has employed a number of strategies to affirm and consolidate its power: images, construction projects, and collective practices are all used by the Party of God to create an urban reality that fits its own ideal of Islamic society.

by James Blake Wiener

by Sofia Bacchini

Gallery

72-85

The Mother The Sacred Image of Women in Uyghur Society by Dilnur Reyhan


Beauty, God, and the Qur’an

Beauty, God, and the Qur’an In the Qur’an, beauty has a special place. The beauty of the creation and of God are conceptualized and powerfully represented by the written word, which reveals its divine and aesthetic nature through the art of calligraphy.

by Sara Ibrahim and Giulia Gallini

Editors-in-Chief of IWA Islamic World of Art


by Sara Ibrahim and Giulia Gallini

When talking about beauty in Islam, one usually mentions a famous hadith: “Inna Allah jamil yuhibbu al-jamal” (God is beautiful and loves beauty). It should not come as a surprise that this saying of the Prophet provides a reason for art to exist. Beauty is connected to the divine (God is beautiful) and God not only approves of it, He cherishes it (God loves beauty). At a first glance, and apparently at odds with the approach defined by the hadith, the Qur’an never discusses beauty overtly. The sacred text rarely uses the words most commonly translated as “beauty” (jamal) and “beautiful” (jamil). Far from leaving the problem of beauty aside, though, here and there in the Qur’anic text, we are able to discern the Qur’anic attitude towards beauty. The Qur’an employs a wide range of terms that are connected with the concept of beauty in one way or the other, and in several passages, we learn what is considered beautiful and what is the right approach towards it.

Humans experience first and foremost the beauty in God’s creation. It is indicative that the Arabic word most often translated as “beauty” (jamal) occurs in the Qur’an only once and in a context clearly referring to the creation: “And the cattle— He created them for you; […] and there is beauty in them for you” (Qur’an 16:5-6). The beauty of the creation is enjoyable, useful, and edifying. We read how humanity finds pleasure in the creation: the baby is given to the mother so “that she might be comforted and not sorrow” (Qur’an 28:13); the rain gives joy to those who are showered by it (Qur’an 30:48). The creation is beautiful also in its utilitarian nature: “the seed puts forth its shoot, and strengthens it, and it grows stout and rises straight upon its stalk, pleasing the sowers” (Qur’an 48:29). But more importantly, God’s creation is beautiful because it communicates to the believer the greatness of God’s power. After all, the creation is “God´s handiwork, who has created everything very well” (Qur’an 27:88); the physical world is magnificent because it derives from God himself, from His grace and splendour.

THE BEAUTY OF GOD’S CREATION

SUMMER 2020 | VOL. 6

The Qur’an distinguishes three types of beauty: the beauty of the creation made by God, the beauty of God Himself, and the beauty of the ornaments made by men. These different forms of beauty are presented in all their various and contrasting aspects in the sacred text; beauty is a blessing, but it can also be a curse.

This brings us to the second type of beauty recognizable in the Qur’an—the beauty of the divinity. God’s beauty permeates from the creation and the physical world, but his beauty transcends the materiality of the creations and takes on a sublime and eternal connotation: “to God belong the Names Most Beautiful (al-husna)” (Qur’an 7:180).

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Islamic Revolution and Iranian Children’s Literature

Islamic Revolution and Iranian Children’s Literature The Iranian Revolution radically changed the political structure of the country and caused a deep break in the Persian collective imagination, overcoming imperial ideology of the Pahlavi dynasty who ruled Iran until 1979. The revolution left its mark on all social and cultural fields, children’s literature included.

by Latino Taddei

Independent researcher on Iranian contemporary history


by Latino Taddei

AUTUMN 2020 | VOL. 6

Gord Afarid (1973), illustration by Ali Akbar Sadeghi. All the images in the article are courtesy of the Book Collection Sergio Silva.

19


Migration and Art

His picture Freedom Graffiti is a projection of the passionate painting The Kiss by Gustav Klimt onto the facade of a bombed-out house facade, the walls of which are only preserved as skeletons made of steel and concrete. Azzam’s works show the dramatic state of war in Syria juxtaposed with the reality of the human condition. In The Syrian Musuem, Azzam contrasts the traumatic photographs of war with idealistic paintings. Azzam’s collages are undoubtedly a silent criticism of the world that is unable or unwilling to come up with political solutions to brutal conflicts—in this case, speaking for Syria. In his view, as an artist, art is his own way to fight for his country and to raise awareness on the problems of his country: “If the world does not come to Syria and does not look at Syria, then Syria comes into the world,” says Tammam Azzam. The artist gives the viewer new insights through his works of art. He combines contemporary photographs with traditional Western works of art. The collages create new transnational and transcultural perspectives for the viewer. The Statue of Liberty, stands as a symbol of freedom. Tammam Azzam reshapes the body of the statue and replaces it with pictures of destroyed Syrian house facades: the body of Azzam’s Statue of Liberty is made up of ruins, a pile of rubble. In the 20th century, America was a symbol of freedom and human rights for the poor from Europe. According to Azzam, the Statue of Liberty has lost its symbolic power in the 21st century. He explained: “The Statue of Liberty in New York does not represent US politics and I used it only as the symbol of freedom.”

MUSEUMS: DEVELOPING SOCIAL RESPONSIBILITY

Emigrated artists, researchers, and scientists have established themselves in Europe and around the world, where they started to present their stories in diverse ways in galleries, exhibitions, or museums. Museums, in particular, are taking up the new role of developing social responsibility towards the migration crisis.


by Bilgehan KÖhler

AUTUMN 2020 | VOL. 6

Klimt, Freedom Graffiti. Photomontage, Tammam Azzam, 2013.

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The Power Of Cultural Resistance A cultural and physical genocide is going on in the Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region (XUAR), occupied by China since 1949. The slow and tragic deletion of the Uyghurs through a terrifying process of ethnical cleansing is putting at risk millions of human lives and thousands of years of civilization in Central Asia.

by Sara Ibrahim Editor-in-Chief of IWA Islamic World of Art


COVER STORY


Interview

by James Blake Wiener

Shangri La A conversation with the curator of the only museum dedicated to the arts of the Islamic world in the United States.

After a life spent acquiring Islamic art for her own pleasure in her private house in Honolulu, Hawaii, the wealthy heiress Doris Duke decided to share her vast collection with the public. In her final will she called for the creation of the Doris Duke Foundation for Islamic Art “to promote the study and understanding of Middle Eastern Art and Culture.” Emanation of her foundation is The Shangri La Museum of Islamic Art, Culture & Design, that houses one of the most unique and intriguing collections of Islamic art in the world. The former residence of Doris Duke, Shangri La is now a vibrant museum offering guided tours, residencies for scholars and artists, and special temporary exhibitions. Dr. Leslee Michelsen is the curator of collections and exhibitions of the Shangri La, in charge of leading the team responsible for the exhibition, interpretation, research, and conservation of the museum’s collection of historic and contemporary arts of the Islamic world. In this interview, she shares with us the museum’s unusual history and unparalleled collection of art. Dr. Leslee Michelsen, thanks so much for speaking with me. Built in 1937 as the Honolulu home of the American socialite and philanthropist Doris Duke (1912-1993), Shangri La was inspired by Duke’s extensive travels across North Africa, the Near East, and South Asia. What was it about the Islamic World that so captivated Duke and prompted her to assemble such a beautiful collection? Why did she want to bring these treasures to Hawaii? We know very little about why Duke collected—she

kept no diaries, wrote few letters, and didn’t annotate catalogues. Her collection of arts from Islamic cultures seems to have been based on a deeply personal interest in, and respect for, the craftsmanship of the artworks. Honolulu was in many ways a refuge for her—most of her friends here didn’t care about her wealth or her status, and she was relatively free from prying eyes. She seems to have embraced the lifestyle here, especially with her enthusiasm for water sports (including surfing). Shangri La was a private place. Her collection clearly wasn’t about display—she could have “shown off” her collection at her townhouse in New York City or her mansion in Newport—but she installed the artworks in Honolulu. I think it probably had a lot to do with private pleasure and enjoyment. Shangri La’s collection is more broad than encyclopedic in scope with approximately 4,500 objects. These priceless works of art come from Spain, Morocco, Egypt, Syria, Iran, Central Asia, India, in addition to Malaysia and Indonesia. Which of the objects on display are highlights in your estimation?


Doris Duke and Sam Kahanamoku playing slide and acoustic guitars, 1939. The Kahanamokus, a prominent Native Hawaiian family, became close friends with Doris Duke. Photo by Martin Munkรกcsi. Shangri La Historical Archives, Doris Duke Foundation for Islamic Art. Gift of Hope Cromwell Hopkins.

WINTER 2019 | VOL.5

55


Hezbollah and the City

Hezbollah and the City In Beirut Hezbollah has employed a number of strategies to affirm and consolidate its power: images, construction projects, and collective practices are all used by the Party of God to create an urban reality that fits its own ideal of Islamic society.

by Sofia Bacchini

Independent researcher on Middle Eastern contemporary history



Hezbollah and the City

This purge and subsequent relocation involved Grand Ayatollah Muhammad Hussein Fadlallah, the spiritual father of Hezbollah. After spending his formative years in Iranian and Iraqi seminaries, Fadlallah settled in Nabaa in the mid-60s to support the marginalized population of the suburb. His aim was to improve life conditions and to facilitate the formation of a number of basic social services in an area where government intervention was absent. The urban reality became an important dimension in Hezbollah’s political strategy as it connected to the need to promote the social inclusion of the suburb population. The Party of God started developing its own structures clearly distinguished and independent from the ones of the Lebanese government; this is in line with Hezbollah’s ideal of resistance society. According to this view, the population needs to be self-reliant and to organize internally what is necessary for its sustenance. For Hezbollah then, the urban tissue is both an area where services are provided and a place where the community’s identity is developed. This dual function creates a strong relationship between the control of the urban space and its function. The reconstruction of Haret Hreik, a neighborhood of southern Beirut, is significant for understanding the interconnectedness of urban space and the construction of identity. Haret Hreik was heavily bombarded by the Israeli army during the 2006 Lebanon War; Israel’s military fury against this area was seen by the international community as a symbolic violence. Hezbollah facilitated the reconstruction of Haret Hreik, taking on the economic aspects specifically. In this way, the Party surpassed the Lebanese government in material intervention within the urban reality, thus, renewing its covenant with the inhabitants of the neighborhood.

THE RECONSTRUCTION OF HARET HREIK

On 14 August 2006, Hezbollah Secretary General Hassan Nasrallah made a famous speech promising that Haret Hreik would be rebuilt “more beautiful than before”. The reconstruction became the first instance in Lebanon of participatory urban planning— the inhabitants were asked how they wanted the neighborhood rebuilt. The project

Portraits of a Hezbollah martyrs in the hills south of Beirut. Photo by Jason Florio.


by Sofia Bacchini

was carried out by Jihad al-Bina, a development foundation founded by Hezbollah in the mid-80s to rebuild south Lebanon after the war against Israel. The reconstruction project of Haret Hreik was eventually called WAAD (in Arabic, waad means “promise”). The project motto was “will be rebuilt, more beautiful than ever”.

COMMUNITY AND ICONOGRAPHY

The community is also constructed through symbols and images. In Lebanon, Hezbollah is characterized by a strong use of iconography both on a national and a local level. Inside Dahieh, for instance, iconography is used systematically: billboards, flags, posters, banners, photographs,

SUMMER 2020 | VOL. 6

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The Mother The Sacred Image of Women in Uyghur Society

Gallery

by Dilnur Reyhan, Sociologist and Researcher of the Uyghur Diaspora


As in many traditional and patriarchal societies,

husbands are in camps, or they simply disappear

it is possible to find among the Uyghur people

without leaving a trace. Uyghur women undergo

a glorification of the mother’s role. During this

forced sterilizations on a massive scale. The

special and long-awaited moment in history,

dismantling of families and the kidnapping of

women are finally honored and recognized

children who are taken quietly to “kindergartens”

when they give life and, in return, become fully

and indoctrinated at will while their parents are

fulfilled women. Thus, many songs, proverbs, and

in camps or have disappeared, is another painful

poems pay homage, congratulate, and incite

reality. Whether in the private or the public

women to become wives and mothers, and to

sphere, these women endure discrimination and

play their role with a smile within the institution

stress linked to their status of wives, mothers,

of marriage.

and as women from a persecuted ethnic minority.

Wives are seen as naturally benevolent, while

In the diaspora, this situation has hardly

being hardworking and strong, they also owe

improved—especially with the fascistization

it to themselves to remain chic and neat. The

of Chinese politics in the Uyghur region. On the

collective imagination understands that it is

contrary, it has become more difficult for women

innate that mothers are gentle and maternal

who assume naturally a role of psychological

in all circumstances. But a woman who has

support within their homes, with friends, and

become a mother no longer has the right to

within the diasporic community. The Uyghur

ask herself “who am I?” outside of the role of

mother has seen her role strengthened and

a mother. The mental load is enormous, and

her already sacred status has been further

the education of children and parenthood is

emphasized, becoming teachers of Uyghur

assumed alone or almost alone for most of the

language and culture at home. Young women

time. Unpaid work in the household is not called

in the diaspora, already on the front lines of the

into question. Wage labour outside of the home

fight against Chinese abuses in recent years,

leaves hardly any time and energy to these

must fulfill the roles of workers, wives, mothers,

women for themselves and, moreover, they

and patriotic activists.

often take on the accounting and finances of the

This sacralization of motherhood is so deeply

household. Finally, they also have an important

rooted in the minds of every Uyghur that it

and almost similar role aligning to expectations

occupies almost all the artistic works devoted

of in-laws. Social pressure, in the broad sense,

to women, even among young Uyghur artists.

forces these women to assume these roles

During our discussions, I asked two female

without complaint or recourse.

painters, Marwayit Hapiz and Gulnaz Tursun—

The Uyghur nation is in the throes of a genocide,

whose paintings you have the chance to see

which is revealed by the internment of several

in this gallery—to suggest artworks dedicated

million people in concentration camps where

to Uyghur women with a description text. The

torture and forced labor are documented.

subject of these two artists concerns mothers

Women are the first victims of this genocide.

and motherland. I have therefore kept their texts

They agree to marry by force with Chinese men,

as they are, with a translation that respects the

or they share their sheets by force while their

original content.

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