by MALIK MERCHANT
When I am in Toronto, I walk through the Aga Khan Park virtually every day. I take the east entrance, and first walk around to the Ismaili Centre, sit on a bench by tree number 49, and if it’s evening time I contemplate. Often, I read newspapers. The other day I read my month’s supply of the Toronto Star and the Sunday New York Times — 4 hours under glorious sunshine, but protected by the shade of trees.
Then, as I cross a small pathway by the majestic dome of the Ismaili Jamatkhana, I see the Museum 200 metres away, where a lone guard stands by the main entrance. Is he bored? I wonder. Thousands have been, for many many weeks. The Museum’s on-line programming has kept us going. But we miss the inside — the actual exhibits, the shop, the samosas at the café, the Diwan restaurant, the courtyard with its many performances, the design, colours and architecture of the building, the Bellerive Room, and the tunnel entrance downstairs that we walk through when we are parked underground! Yes, we do miss so many things, inside and outside the museum building, beautifully thought out by His Highness the Aga Khan and his younger brother Prince Amyn. The children especially love water, and the 5 ponds are empty. The geese who used to fly into the ponds in glorious harmony at around 6:00 AM have to take their bathing somewhere else — it’s truly a joy to watch them bathing in an acrobatic manner! Absolutely magical! For the rest of us, who walk by the 5 ponds or sit on the benches, there is no running water to soothe our senses! But all this changes on Friday, June 26!
Museum supporters have just received an email from the Aga Khan Museum’s Development Manager, Caroline Chan, inviting them to a special Friends and Patrons day on Friday, June 26, 2020, before it opens to the general public on Saturday June 27!
The supporters will be the first to see the Museum’s Sanctuary and Chrysalis exhibitions, which both explore the many dimensions of sanctuary, immigration, and migration. The guests have been invited to enjoy a complimentary beverage and cookies at the Courtyard Café and take in the summer blooms at the Aga Khan Park!
In line with provincial health directives, the visit will be a little different from what we have been accustomed to in the past. Special health and safety protocols have been put in place including a tool to conduct self-assessment for coronavirus, wearing of face masks, availability of hand sanitization stations and social distancing.
Carolin’es invitation ends with the slogan “Welcome back to where we all belong!”
In addition, the Aga Khan Museum’s CEO, Henry Kim, issued a statement on the reopening. Here are excerpts from his statement:
I would like to thank you for your patience and ongoing support during these challenging times. With restrictions on gatherings gradually easing, I am pleased to let you know that the Museum will reopen on June 27, 2020. As we rebuild our lives and livelihoods over the next few months, I do hope you can look to the Museum as a source of hope and inspiration.
The safety of our visitors is our primary focus, and our intention is to make your return a safe and enjoyable experience. We have instituted a number of measures designed to protect you and our staff, so that during your visit, you can see beautiful art, be moved by learning, and enjoy live performances worry-free.
As your hosts, we have a duty to ensure your health and safety — it is our highest priority……
The world has changed, and so have we. Reflecting what we have gone through together over the last few months, we have redrawn our programs for the remainder of the year and created Rebuild 2020, our commitment to reconnect and reinvigorate communities through the arts. Please do visit our website for more information on the many programs we have created to reignite your curiosity and spark your imagination.
Whether you explore online or plan to visit in-person, you are welcome at the Aga Khan Museum. We cannot wait for your return.
Henry S. Kim
Director and CEO,
Aga Khan Museum
Mr. Kim, I can assure you we have missed you more than you have missed us! It is us who can’t wait to get into the beautiful and inspiring space, which His Highness the Aga Khan created for millions to enjoy some 6 years ago!
Date posted: June 23, 2020.
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Malik Merchant is the founding publisher/ editor of Simerg (2009), Barakah (2017) and Simergphotos (2012). A former IT consultant, he now dedicates his time to small family projects and other passionate endeavours such as the publication of this website. He is the eldest son of the Late Alwaez Jehangir Merchant (1928-2018) and Alwaeza Maleksultan Merchant, who both served Ismaili Jamati institutions together for several decades in professional and honorary capacities. His daughter, Nurin Merchant, is a veterinarian based in Ottawa. Malik may be contacted at Simerg@aol.com.