Joint Simerg-Ismaili Artists Collaboration Results in Compendium of Ismaili Artists from Around the World

Simerg with the support of Ismaili artists from around the world is pleased to release the first official version of A Compendium of Ismaili Artists, following a preview version that was circulated about a month ago. The new publication profiles more than thirty Ismaili visual artists from around the world – professionals and non-professionals alike. The compendium will be updated on a monthly basis, and we invite unlisted artists to submit their profiles with an image from one of their art works to simerg@aol.com. Please download or view the exciting new publication by clicking on A Compendium of Ismaili Artists or the following image:

Please click on image to download compendium

Please click on image to download compendium

The Jamatkhana in Toronto — “A Seed of Faith Planted…” by Shariffa Keshavjee

The Jamatkhana Toronto

The “Muqarnas” is a finely crafted corbelled ceiling whose skylight provides a subtle transition from the outside to the serene Jamatkhana inside.

BY SHARIFFA KESHAVJEE

A thousand years and  more
A seed of faith planted
In Khadak in Mumbai
Transplanted to many soils
India, Pakistan, Afghanistan
Bagamoyo, Zanzibar, Mombasa
Now the park on Wynford Drive

The murid murshid seed
Planted and transplanted

Now sacred space of meeting
People, stories, histories
Identities, languages
Fused, bonded, shared
Nascent unity love and care
For the highest potential
Nurturing and flourishing

The murid murshid seed
Nurtured flourishes

When  open arms welcome
Pluralism of mind and heart
Where ideas take root
A Mission is in bloom
The intellect soars
The vision expands
In the park in Canada

The murid murshid  spark
A strong foundation

A screen made from ribbons of steel separates the anteroom from the prayer hall.  It repeats an 8 sided pattern exhibiting a geometric tool used by Muslim artists to create order and rhythm for contemplation.

When vision, mission, ideas
Empathetic understanding
In harmonious symphony rise
The universe conspires
The crucible swells
Then there is alchemy
In Toronto in the park

The murid murshid love
Consecrated to Thee

A park, ineffable light, a sacred space,
Where nature, man, knowledge
Come together in unison
Of mind, body and spirit
Of dialogue and collaboration
A mosaic of cultures, languages
Inspiring hope and harmony

The murid murshid bond
Reaches out to man and nature

Circle of infinity encompasses
A Jamatkhana for supplication
The jamat comes together
To submit in humility before the Divine
The hymnal voice rising into the dome
Reaching heavenward ascending
To arrive into the silence  of the heart

The murid murshid bond
Reverberating beyond time

Inside the Jamatkhana, the central skylight panel descends to a white translucent onyx block.

The sound of prayer ascends
Reaches a crescendo
From the dome to beyond
Through the crystal clear
To the Divine Light matrix
Into the heart of  Divinity
Enlightened luminescence

The bond of murid murshid
Sets free the heart of man

Those who come together in dialogue
Those who contemplate and reflect
Welcome to the open arms of wonder
Sacred space, the crucible
That transmutes base to pure
That nurtures and gives flight
To the wings of the souls

The soul of murid to murshid
Transcends human understanding

Had we but wings
We would fly in the sky
To search  for the light
Neither of North, South
East and West
To flutter and land
In the windowsill
Of the Divine Master

Where murid murshid
Blend and Unite

Date posted: Monday, September 22, 2014.

Copyright: Shariffa Keshavjee/Simerg. 2014.

__________

The images shown in the poem may be clicked for enlargement. Image captions are as follows:

Top image - The “Muqarnas” is a finely crafted corbelled ceiling whose skylight provides a subtle transition from the outside to the serene Jamatkhana inside. Photo: Copyright Gary Otte.
Centre image - A screen made from ribbons of steel separates the anteroom from the prayer hall.  It repeats an 8 sided pattern exhibiting a geometric tool used by Muslim artists to create order and rhythm for contemplation. Photo: Copyright Gary Otte
Bottom image - Inside the Jamatkhana, the central skylight panel descends to a white translucent onyx block. Photo: Copyright Shai Gil.

_______________

About the writer: Shariffa Keshavjee is  a philanthropist and an entrepreneur with an objective to help women empower themselves. Raised in Kisumu, she considers herself a “pakaa” Kenyan. She is now based in the nation’s capital, Nairobi. Her other interest is in visual arts where she delights in painting on wood, silk  and porcelain using water colours, oils and acrylics. She also likes writing, especially for children, and bird watching.

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Simerg Photo Contest Commemorates Opening of Magnificent New Aga Khan Museum

Aga Khan Museum, the Ismaili Centre and their Park Perfect Breeding Ground for superb photo taking and winning great prizes including free membership

By Malik Merchant, Editor

Te Aga Khan Museum Catalogue and special children's books at the Museum gift shop..

The Aga Khan Museum catalogue and special children’s books at the museum gift shop. Photo: Shellina Karmali.

Thursday, September 18, 2014, marked the public opening of the new Aga Khan Museum located on Wynford Drive in Toronto. Simerg marks the opening with a special photo contest in which a maximum of 25 prizes including youth and family memberships will to be given away to the top entries selected by a panel of three independent professional photographers, all from Ontario. The contest is open to all residents of Canada.

His Highness the Aga Khan and Prime Minister Stephen Harpur at the opening ceremony of the Ismaili Centre on September 12, 2014. Photo: Malik Merchant/Simerg.

His Highness the Aga Khan and Prime Minister Stephen Harpur at the opening ceremony of the Ismaili Centre on September 12, 2014. Photo: Malik Merchant/Simerg.

The Aga Khan Museum and the Ismaili Centre were officially on Friday, September 12, in the presence of His Highness the Aga Khan and Prime Minister Stephen Harper, members of the 49th Ismaili Imam’s family and invited guests.

A maximum of 10 annual memberships each for the YOUTH and OPEN  categories for the top photos selected by a team of three professional photographers will be given to the winning entries. The submission deadline will be December 31, 2014. The winning photos will be announced on this website and simergphotos.com on or around in late January, 2015. In addition to the annual memberships, the judges will pick up  5 photos deserving merit awards. The merit winners will each receive a $50.00 gift voucher,  entitling  them to make purchases from the Aga Khan Museum Gift Shop.

A selection of items at the Aga Khan Museum Gift Shop.

A selection of items at the Aga Khan Museum Gift Shop. Photo: Shellina Karmali

There will be two categories. The Youth Category will be open to anyone 19 and under. A maximum of 10 annual youth memberships to the Museum will be given to the winning entries.

The Open Category is for those over the age of 19. It will be for all amateur photographers and photography enthusiasts who like to shoot photographs, either using a camera or their smart hand-held devices and phones! For this category, each photo has to be accompanied by a 75 to 100 word narrative to encapsulate the photographer’s experience of the Aga Khan Museum, the Ismaili Centre or their Park. Only spaces where photos are allowed to be taken will be accepted for the contest.

Men's ties at the Aga Khan Museum Gift Shop.

A selection of  ties at the Aga Khan Museum Gift Shop. Photo: Shellina Karmali

The opening few weeks of the museum will be the perfect breeding ground for passionate picture taking and writing a brief narrative, and if you are selected as a winner in the Open Category you will be one of 10 to receive an annual family membership.

Here are some ideas for taking and submitting photos: artistic and architecture beauty and grandeur of the projects, interior spaces including art work (where permitted) , landscape, nature (as in the park), as well as spontaneous moments involving people!

Jewellery at the Aga Khan Museum Gift Shop.

Jewellery at the Aga Khan Museum Gift Shop. Photo: Malik Merchant/Simerg.

The prizes are as a result of  gracious donations by numerous individuals and families in Canada and abroad. Simerg is deeply grateful to the sponsors of the prizes.

Each individual may submit up to 3 photos for consideration for the contest, all in high resolution. They should be mailed to simerg@aol.com, and accompanied by the photographer’s full name and address as well as telephone number(s) where they may be contacted.

Every photograph received (maximum 3 per individual) will be published on a special gallery page on this website. The judges will select the winners from the photos published in the photo gallery. The judges decision will be final.

Museum GiftshpWe are thrilled to host this contest and look forward to a fantastic response from the public.

Post updated: October 1, 2014.

A Gift….September 12, 2014

EXCITEMENT IN THE AIR

by Navyn Naran

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There is excitement, magic in the air.
the Imam has arrived,
the buildings are washed and rewashed with rain,
the winds have combed out snarls and veils
Gray, opaque clouds, as if cotton wool
had been soaked in water
and strewn over the ceiling here.
ahh, cloudbreak.

In the horizon, a peek of baby blue,
tinged with light cream;
the clouds moving elsewhere.
Leaves green, having just been cleansed
by buckets of water overnight,
freshly manicured, ready to welcome
Him to Wynford Drive.
It’s as of the whole area has
returned from a morning jaunt,
refreshed and nicely sore,
rejuvenated for this day!

Prince Karim (left) posing for a birthday photo with his uncle, Prince Sadruddin, and his younger brother Prince Amyn

Which Day?
This day, the 12th of September 2014,
Prince Amyn Mohamed Aga Khan’s Birthday
He was born within a year of the Imam,
adoring the brother he followed as a child.
Whatever Karim does, this ginger colored head
and Trustworthy, Loyal Heart, wanted to do
an adoring brother, he could only be
as Ali to Muhammad, attached:
The elders remember him; a playful, sweet child,
a flair, a flamboyance, detailed care.

As specialized cardiac cells continuously fire ,
beat by beat, and in rhythm,
Prince Amyn, a shadow-like of the Form,
as the gardener of the Master’s land
in His highest esteem.
No laurels; much humor and style.
and it is on this very day, a historic gift to the globe .
77 Wynford Drive on this 77th Birthday.

photo 2

The Aga Khan Museum. The Ismaili Centre. The Park.
In the present, a present,
and presence of leaders, donors, volunteers
and a very Special Eye.
Who’d have thought it in Uganda in 1970?
Who’d have thought it in Canada in 2000?
this is not a facade to name or number,
it is to be understood.
For some perhaps piece by piece.
For others, a space for contemplation.
For opening the eyes.

I remember the barren, grey dirt being overturned,
the harsh, cold winters, icy,
unthawing, unrelenting,
when yellow hatted men worked tirelessly,
from below ground up.
Pieces of structure in an architect’s mind,
in the Architect’s Mind, comes alive.
Work. Many hours and stressors,
much negotiated and coordinated.

Shah Nameh s

One would never know.
Simple lines, soft color and a
sense of cleanliness and peace.
Magnificent.
Day or night. Lights enter and open,
leave everything behind.
Enter. Come. Ayez…

Come reflect, details of the shahnameh,
the kufic script in a Blue Qur’an,
the magic of art and calligraphy.
Rest a while, be seated. Read.
in the hush of the quiet,
only footsteps of men and women,
children and elders, absorbing.
Perhaps it is only history. Past.
If the skills and beauty compose a piece,
this civilisation is to be included,
to be modeled, continued.
Pluralistic.

It is a day of celebration. Come, Enter, Ayez…

Copyright: Navyn Naran/Simerg

~~~~~~~

“A FABULOUS, GLORIOUS GIFT BY HIS HIGHNESS”

By Malik Merchant
Editor, Simerg

Alex Sarris. Photo" Malik Merchant/Simerg.

Alex Sarris. Photo: Malik Merchant/Simerg.

Alex Sarris, the facility operator at the site of the Aga Khan Museum, the Ismaili Centre and their Park was a few feet away from me. He was discussing with one of his colleagues a hitch that had occurred and which could possibly take a few hours to resolve. I was tantalized by the breathtaking Museum and the Centre that I had earlier walked through as a member of the media invited for the pre-opening review. The view of the two buildings on either side of the Park was stunning. The architectural contrast and splendour could only  be truly appreciated when looking at them from the Park. The calm water of the pond in front of me soothed me. I listened to Alex as I took my final bites of a deliciously chunky roast beef sandwich that had been served to the media earlier at the museum as part of a light lunch. I had wrapped it and tucked it in my computer bag. I was hungry enough again after walking through the museum galleries and the Ismaili Centre! Food! Yes, the ultimate delight when deliciously served!

Part of main exhibition hall, Aga Khan Museum. Photo: Malik Merchant/Simerg

Part of main exhibition hall, Aga Khan Museum. Photo: Malik Merchant/Simerg

I thought about the challenges Alex and his team faced during the years they had worked  at the site, under some harsh winter weather! How might have these workers coped, I wondered, like many hundreds and thousands of workers who work on outdoor construction projects. But here was a frustrating delay less than 48  hours before its opening by His Highness the Aga Khan. There was also so much work being done both outside and inside the buildings, I would have thought the opening day was  still several weeks away. Alex soon left  his colleague brimming with confidence and with a cheerful face. I called him aside, and asked him to describe what he saw around him and how he felt. He looked at the two buildings and the park and said, “Fabulous, glorious, a gift by His Highness the Aga Khan befitting a united society cooperating and working together to advance the ideals of pluralism.”

The Park and the Ismaili Centre. Photo:  Malik Merchant/Simerg.

The Park and the Ismaili Centre. Photo: Malik Merchant/Simerg.

“And what about the final few hours to finish the job?” I asked him. He replied, “Two days of diligent working will bring the site up to the highest standards established by His Highness.”  He had greeted me earlier with “Ya Ali Madad” and departed with “Mubaraki to all Ismailis and to all Canadians on this unique occasion.” In all these years, I have not learnt more than 2 or 3 French or Spanish words but I knew Alex had learnt quite a few new words from the on site ‘Ismaili dictionary’ when he had used, in reference to the hitch, the word “mushkil-asaan,” an Arabic phrase used in Ismaili prayers meaning resolution of difficulty. He was seeking a resolution to his immediate problem as well any other outstanding issues that they all faced collectively as a team.

I was grateful for his openness and humility, and was touched and inspired by his cheerful and positive outlook. I bid this wonderfully articulate person good bye, as he graciously permitted me to take his photo with my mobile! 

Date posted: Friday, September 12, 2014.

_________________________

Morning at the Park, Jamatkhana and the Museum by Navyn Naran

The Ismaili Centre and the Aga Khan Museum will be officially opened later this week in the presence of His Highness the Aga Khan, the 49th Imam of the Ismaili Muslims. A series of poems celebrating the many aspects of the two majestic buildings as well as their Park, which is to be opened in 2015, will be published throughout the week. We begin with Navyn Naran’s contemplative piece, Morning at the New Park, Jamatkhana and Museum.

Astrolabe. Credit: Aga Khan Museum Collection

Astrolabe. Credit: Aga Khan Museum Collection

Compendium of Ismaili Artists from Around the World: A Simerg Initiative

Simerg is delighted to introduce a preview edition of the long awaited arts compendium of Ismaili artists. The publication currently profiles 19 Ismaili visual artists from around the world, and more entries will be added as we hear from Ismaili artists – professionals and non-professionals alike. We ask that artists submit a brief profile and an image from one of their art pieces for inclusion in the next updated version of this unique “directory.” The updated version, which will be designated as the first official edition, will be published on October 1, 2014. To download or view the preview version of the compendium, please click on the image below.

TO VIEW/DOWNLOAD PDF PLEASE CLICK ON IMAGE

Ismaili Artist Compendium Cover with Thumbnails

Simerg to Launch Photo Contest to Celebrate the Opening of the New Aga Khan Museum

An artistic rendering of the Ismaili Centre, the Aga Khan Museum and their Park. Photo: The Ismaili/Imara.

An artistic rendering of the Ismaili Centre, the Aga Khan Museum and their Park. Photo: The Ismaili/Imara.

Simerg is celebrating the public opening of the Aga Khan Museum on September 18, 2014, by launching a photography contest. A total of 25 photos, all related to the Aga Khan Museum, the Ismaili Centre and their Park taken from the time the grounds become open to the public through to September 25, 2014, will be selected by an independent panel of judges and posted on this website on or around 7th October, 2014. The prizes will consist of a total of 20 free annual youth and family memberships to the museum as well as 5 merit prizes from the museum’s shop.

There will be two categories. The Youth Category will be open to anyone 19 and under. A total of 10 annual youth memberships will be given to the winning entries and, in addition, the judges will select 5 merit entries who will be awarded with the Aga Khan Museum catalogue.

The Open Category is for anyone over the age of 19. It will be for all amateur photographers and photography enthusiasts as well as anyone who likes to shoot photographs, either using a camera or their smart hand-held devices and phones! For this category we will expect each photo to be accompanied with a 75 to 100 word narrative to encapsulate the photographer’s experience of the Aga Khan Museum, the Ismaili Centre or their Park. Only spaces where photos are allowed to be taken will be accepted for the contest.

The opening days of the museum will be the perfect breeding ground for passionate picture taking and writing a brief narrative, and if you are selected as a winner in the Open Category you will be one of 10 to receive an annual family membership.

Here are some ideas for taking and submitting photos: artistic and architecture beauty and grandeur of the projects, interior spaces (where permitted), landscape, nature (as in the park), as well as spontaneous moments involving people!

The prizes that are to be given are from gracious donations by numerous individuals and families in Ontario. Further details of the contest, including the names of judges, will be published in the coming fortnight. Start preparing for this contest as communities in Ontario and Canada as well as around the world eagerly anticipate the opening of three unique cultural initiatives undertaken by His Highness the Aga Khan!

A Tribute to Mawlana Hazar Imam for Creating “Centres” of Soul at Wynford Drive in Toronto

On October 10, 2010, Bashir Fazal Ladha of the United Kingdom, during his visit to Toronto, went to Wynford Drive to see how the construction work of the Ismaili Centre, the Aga Khan Museum and their Park was coming along. He writes: “It was a thrilling moment and I was full of excitement when I saw the progress, and in a moment of inspiration I composed a poem which I have decided to share with readers of Simerg.” The opening of the museum to the public on September 18, 2014 was announced recently and we take the privilege to repost this beautiful and inspiring poem for all our readers.

Writing the History of Tomorrow

Please click to enlarge

A photo of the site captured on October 10, 2010 by Jim Bowie - the day Bashir Ladha visited the area and was thus inspired to write the poem. Photo: Jim Bowie

A photo of the site captured on October 10, 2010 – the day Bashir Ladha visited the area and was thus inspired to write the poem. Photo: Jim Bowie. Copyright.

BY BASHIR LADHA

A look down deep in the bowls of the earth
“A foundation being laid, a foundation of a building?” I ask
Not only, it is a foundation of a history to unfold…..

I bow my head in submission to
The Lord of  Time and Age
Yes the Lord of Time and Age
For indeed you are beyond time and space

The planets rotate in their orbits
Glorifying your majestic presence
In those momentous moments,
time and history are created

Not the history as in past,
but the unfolding of tomorrow

Lord you create  a new history brick by brick
As the form takes place…
The Majesty of your
awe-inspiring Light is Manifested

Stage by stage, the inner world is recreated
The plaster of your mercy,
the warmth of your love

All adorn the formless and
the formed building you built

You call these “centres”
Indeed these are “centres” of soul
where your name is mentioned

The light shines forth from its windows
Inviting the convenienced  and the stray
Inviting both to a new history of tomorrow
and recreating the event of
alastu*
Inviting to the life of paradise

Museum where the past will be enlivened
Prayer hall where the soul will be enriched
Park where the future will be contemplated
All this, a gift to humanity

Then why, Ya Mawla why do I neglect
Why do I remain unheeded
remaining a slave to my ego?

Teach me O Lord to submit,
to worship as if I see you

And if I do not see you,
to know that you see all

Wynford Drive, Toronto, Ontario, Canada
I walk with you to a future
A history of tomorrow
Blessed by the Lord of Time and Age

I walk in hope and faith
for a better world ahead
.

* The day of the Primordial Covenant or the Day of Alastu is when God addressed the people and said, “Am I not your Lord?”  (alastu bi Rabbikum). It was the day when hearts were given spiritual nourishment.

© Simerg.com

________________

About the writer: Bashir Ladha has served Ismaili Institutions for the past forty years as an Alwaez, teacher and writer. He has been with the Ismaili Tariqah and Religious Education Board for the United Kingdom since 1983.

The Aga Khan Museum, the Ismaili Centre and their Park: Why I Like This Photo

As work commenced on the large empty plot that had formerly housed the Bata Shoe Company, the trees that lined the perimeter of the site were carefully removed, and gave way to heavy construction equipment and trucks as well as hundreds of skilled professionals for the multi-year construction phase of new Aga Khan Museum, the Ismaili Centre and their Park. Cranes illuminated the night sky. From a highrise building across the Don Valley Parkway, and from the beginning of the project, resident Jim Bowie began taking pictures of the site every single day from his balcony. When we published his highly acclaimed photo essay, In the Making: The Aga Khan Museum, the Ismaili Centre and their Park, we  invited  our readers to select a photo they liked. Here are reposts of two winning entries, as Canada and the world await the opening of the magnificent Aga Khan Museum to the public on September 18, 2014.

The Symbolism of the Halo

By Dana Lopez

Click to enlarge

A halo from the construction site of the new Ismaili Jamatkhana and the Aga Khan Museum in Toronto. The long exposure created this halo from the lights on November 29, 2010. It is not an effect that Jim Bowie created, and he can't quite explain it. Photo: Jim Bowie, Toronto.

A halo from the construction site of the new Ismaili Jamatkhana and the Aga Khan Museum in Toronto. The long exposure created this halo from the lights on November 29, 2010. It is not an effect that Jim Bowie created, and he can’t quite explain it. Photo: Jim Bowie, Toronto.


I enjoyed viewing Jim Bowie’s photo because of its symbolism. Two features are notable in particular. First, the area ringed by the halo appears calm, whereas the area outside the halo pulsates with heavy traffic. I came away with the impression that the haloed area represents a beacon in a hectic world. Second, the three bright lights inside the halo look like newborn stars, perhaps even a new universe. Viewed through this prism, the photo is asking us to make enlightenment the focal point of our daily lives. This interpretation is consistent with the desired impact of the center: to give strength to those of the Ismaili faith while beckoning others to explore the rich contributions of Islamic culture.

~~~~~~~

Camera in Balcony

Click to enlarge

Jim Bowie's camera aimed at the construction site of the Aga Khan Museum, the Ismaili Centre and their Park. Photo: Jim Bowie

Jim Bowie’s camera aimed at the construction site of the Aga Khan Museum, the Ismaili Centre and their Park. Photo: Jim Bowie

By Kathreen Anne Lelis

I like this photo because it depicts the rising beauty ought to be discovered and deserves a future glory. The building site is surrounded by streets and industrialized buildings to mark new development – the Aga Khan Museum, Ismaili Center and their Park built at the center to serve as EMBLEM of a country with unity amidst cultural diversity. The light from the site shows its glowing hope in building a strong foundation to create glory. The camera serves as the people’s excitement to capture the priceless beauty made for them. It is facing the horizon which means that people are ready to face the opportunities the buildings offer and travel from the past to discover the reason of their success towards the future.

_____

About the winners: At the time her winning entry was published, Dana Lopez was a law student studying to become a child advocate at the California Western School of Law. She was honored to participate in Simerg’s essay contest because she believes that replacing fear with hope for a brighter future is the best way to ensure a stable civil society. Kathreen Anne Lelis lives in Philippines where she studied at the San Pedro College of Davao City.

The Hijra: Movement of God’s People by Omid Safi

Standing outside the city, Muhammad looked back lovingly on Mecca and said: “Of all God’s earth, you are the dearest place unto me, and the dearest unto God. Had not my people driven me out from you, I would not have left you.”…Read more….The Quintessential Marking Point of Islamic History

An 1889 photo showing a view of the city of Mecca. Photograph attributed to al-Sayyid ʻAbd al-Ghaffār by scholar Claude Sui. (Source: "Travel to the Holy Land and photography in the nineteenth century" by Claude Sui. Chapter in: To the Holy Lands: Pilgrimage centres from Mecca and Medina to Jerusalem. Mannheim: Reiss-Engelhorn Museum, 2008, pages 56-63). Credit: USA Library of Congress. Please click on image for article by Omid Safi

A photo taken in 1889 showing a view of the city of Mecca. Photograph attributed to al-Sayyid ʻAbd al-Ghaffār by scholar Claude Sui. (Source: “Travel to the Holy Land and photography in the nineteenth century” by Claude Sui. Chapter in: To the Holy Lands: Pilgrimage centres from Mecca and Medina to Jerusalem. Mannheim: Reiss-Engelhorn Museum, 2008, pages 56-63). Credit: USA Library of Congress. Please click on image for article by Omid Safi