A special NEW series about objects that are linked to Ismaili history over the past 1400 years, from the dawn of Islam to the Imamat of the present forty-ninth Imam, Mawlana Shah Karim al Hussaini, His Highness the Aga Khan.
INTRODUCED BY ABDULMALIK J. MERCHANT
Publisher-Editor, Simerg and Simergphotos
In his widely acclaimed and engagingly written “A History of the World in 100 Objects” published in 2010, Neil MacGregor, the Director of The British Museum, tries to tell a history of the world “by deciphering the messages which objects communicate across time – messages about peoples and places, environments and interactions, about different moments in history and about our own time as we reflect upon it.” On the fifth anniversary of Simerg, Studying Ismaili History Through Objects is a new series being launched today that takes its inspiration from MacGregor’s splendid book.
Since 2009, Simerg has launched a special new series to mark each anniversary. Over the past years, the themes that have been published are I Wish I’d Been There, The Jamatkhana – A Place of Spiritual and Social Convergence, Thanking Ismaili Historical Figures and Stories of Ismaili Volunteers. These series have continued to endure over the past years.
Studying Ismaili History Through Objects is, as the title states, a series about objects that are linked to Ismaili history over the past 1400 years, from the dawn of Islam to the Imamat of the present and manifest forty-ninth Imam, Mawlana Shah Karim al Hussaini, His Highness the Aga Khan.
Studying Ismaili History Through Objects will focus on the material culture and heritage of the Ismailis. The object may be a small coin or a monumental building, it may be a single artefact of outstanding beauty and elaborate craftsmanship, or comprise a group of textile fragments or broken pottery shards. The object may be a mundane, ordinary thing created in a particular geographical space and historical setting, but that has taken on meanings that could never have been imagined at the outset. In other words, the object has become a document not just of the world for which it was made, but of the later periods which altered it.
Studying Ismaili History Through Objects will seek to provide a visually articulate approach and a direct link with the past in a tangible way that is both informative and profoundly moving. It is hoped that the contributions presented in this series will stimulate the imagination and provoke discussion. The objects presented may provide a meeting ground for official and formal versions of the past or a reflective personal experience. But they may also go beyond the level of history and personal memory. The objects will become tools towards understanding the importance of culture in the development of self-identity.
Studying Ismaili History Through Objects will also aim to provide an understanding and appreciation of the need to preserve Ismaili heritage and history. This point was emphasised by Mawlana Hazar Imam, His Highness the Aga Khan, at the opening of Baltit Fort in Pakistan in October 1996 when he said: “…what has been inherited over nearly eight hundred years of history in that building should be known and understood and recorded and so it should be in many of the other aspects of our history.”
Studying Ismaili History Through Objects invites contributions from all readers. Your contribution will encourage thoughts about the past but also create a deeper awareness of the present. Objects are ‘signals from the past’ for explorations and discoveries, and are catalysts that should be regarded as just the beginning of an adventure, not the whole story. Through your participation, the objects will promote the exploration of the relationship between histories and memories, between culture and community. Inshallah, the objects presented by readers will serve as a link to the future that recognises its roots in the past, and the series will become a unique reference point on Ismaili history and heritage.
Please send your contribution to: Simerg@aol.com
Date posted: Wednesday, June 25, 2014.