Category Archives: art

ignorance!

On the way to a conference last week, I was faced with a more or less challenging situation: an intense dialogue among a few colleagues about the significance of different cultures in world history and development.  This is a complex topic and it’s hard to make simple conclusions on the matter.  I want to write about this experience though, not because I am after advertising or defending a particular nation or want to offend others.  This is simply my way of alleviating pain after hearing highly ignorant and uneducated remarks by supposedly educated individuals in the United States.

 

I was faced with the question of “who contributed the most to our history” or “whose work we should look for when studying the history of art, philosophy, poetry, architecture, literature, and so on.”

I have often noticed that Europe stands out in the American version of history in many different fields.  For example, I happened to take introductory courses to political philosophy and architecture history at Cornell University as an undergraduate student.  I can confidently say that the majority of topics covered were related to Rome and Greece and some times Great Britain. I, like many other students, left our class thinking that these concepts were first introduced by these nations only and others were mostly followers.  Plato’s Republic was introduced to us as a book that marked the beginning of philosophy and political dialogue and such ideas seemed to begin in a society where thinking and logic were encouraged for the first time. Democracy was shown to be the most mesmerizing concept in a world of chaos. We were introduced to every famous architectural piece in Europe and briefly reviewed a few others (i.e. Ancient Egypt, Japan, and India) in the last couple weeks of the class.  Even specialized courses tend to be biased and negative towards eastern nations, following the language used in ancient Greek historical records.  

 

I was faced with the same dilemma in the car last week. 

 

Cyrus’ Cylinder: Considered as History’s First Declaration of Human Rights
in Ancient Times is today displayed at the British Museum.
©British Museum, London

 

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Filed under Africa, America, art, culture, development, India, Iran, lessons, literature, poetry, popular culture, sociology, traditions, War

knots of 3,000 years

I came across the following article in the Winter 2008 issue of the Middle Eastern arts and cultural magazine, Bidoun. More and more these days, it seems that many of the great artists of this world are becoming hidden and forgotten behind layers of bias and political rhetoric. How much do we really know of our global neighborhoods and the fascinating people and cultural artifacts that lay waiting for us in them?
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Qasr al-Alam
On July 31 [2007], Iran unveiled the world’s largest hand-made carpet, ordered by the United Arab Emirates for the central prayer hall of Abu Dhabi’s enormous Sheikh Zayed mosque. The carpet was designed by Iranian artist Ali Khaliqi and produced by Iran’s state carpet company, whose director, Jalaleddin Bassam, made the following remarks:

As we all know, the weaving of Persian carpets is a timeless art form. Qasr al-Alam, the carpet you are observing beneath your feet today, is the greatest example of that art, and a testament to the enduring artistry of Iran’s villager-weavers, whose skills have been honed for generations. And yet, for the first time in nearly 3000 years, our industry is in decline. It is we who must take the initiative to remind the world of the superiority of our products and traditional artisans. I was recently saddened to learn that 59 percent of Germans have never heard of a Persian carpet. Fifty-nine percent of Germans! In what work are our diplomatic missions engaged? It seems we would be remiss not to inquire about the carpeting needs of the populations where they are stationed, and also identify the latest design preferences, find out which colors are in vogue, so that we can increase orders and the visibility of Iran.
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Filed under art, Iran, traditional artisans