by Shellyza Moledina
Special to Simerg
A Brief Review of the Golden Jubilee initiative in London, UK, showing at Imperial College from September 10-26, 2010
The pictures are brilliant, the design is well thought out, the lights are carefully set, and the music is beautiful and soul-stirring: you know you’ve reached the new Golden Jubilee exhibition: Rays of Light.
The outside rim of the exhibition details a pictured timeline of the Aga Khan. Segments around the circle show his work dedicating his life towards helping millions materially and spiritually, through improving access to education and healthcare, while encouraging pluralism and culture initiatives.
The heart of the exhibition attempts to show the Imam-Murid relationship, and display the Imam’s love for the Ismaili community. The names of all 49 Imams of the Shi’a Ismaili tradition are beautifully inscribed in a continuous circle near the ceiling. This part of the exhibition reveals the unbroken continous ‘Rope of Imamat’ and the consistent service towards humankind since the Imam Ali. This is by far the most special area of the exhibition for the Ismailis, and I can see Ismailis of all ages sitting on the white sofas in silence and contemplation, reluctant to leave.
The end of the exhibition was as well thought out as the rest, and left the visitors with Golden Jubilee music, paired with a quote:
“No belief is like modesty and patience, no attainment is like humility, no honour is like knowledge, no power is like forbearance, and no support is more reliable than consultation.”
And yet, I think that Rays of Light was more about the people that it inspired, rather than the exhibition itself.
When I passed along one part of the exhibition, I could see a Rays of Light tour guide quietly answering in depth questions from an intrigued non-Ismaili visitor. As I passed over another section of the exhibition, I saw young Ismaili children sprawled on the ground, reading the names of the prime ministers that the Aga Khan had met, while an happy religious class teacher asked them questions. I remembered a girl my age, saying that Rays of Light had solved her own spiritual unanswered questions about the nature of the Imamat.
I had expected to see the Ismailis moved to tears by this exhibition, but I had certainly not anticipated the interest in the Aga Khan and his philanthropic initiatives from the non-Ismaili community, who constituted 80% of the visitors that I saw on the time of my visit. Everywhere, from non-Ismailis of all ages, I saw expressions of interest, engrossment and appreciation. Never once of boredom.
As I reluctantly walked towards the exit, I noticed a board with hundreds of white comment cards plastered all over it. Curiously, I took a closer look. Some were written by very young children and carefully decorated in bright coloured crayons and large loopy letters. Others were written by older members of the community, declaring their pride of being a Shi’a Ismaili Muslim after witnessing the exhibition. And then my attention focused on a certain card with one line written clearly, signed by a Christian name.
“Thank you for restoring my faith in the human race.”
One line, beautiful in its simplicity, made me realize what Rays of Light was all about.
Publication date: September 22, 2010
About the writer: Shellyza Moledina is final-year pharmacy student who also enjoys reading history and theology, writing poetry regularly, and debating about current events. She also likes singing and is also a song-writer.
Some of her poetry is featured in the Modern Artistic Expressions category of this Web site. Please click Shellyza Moledina: Mawla’s Eyes and other poems.
She also has her own blog, http://shellyza.wordpress.com.