An Invitation to all Visual Artists and Poets in the Ismaili Community

Circular Plate showing leader watching his community celebrating. Issued by Midori Mint, Limited Edition
Circular Plate showing leader watching his community celebrating. Issued by Midori Mint, Limited Edition

Please click on the following links for works published at this website:
Poetic Expressions: The Poets and their Poetry
Visual Arts: The Artists and their Works



Please click: Expressions of the Golden Jubilee: Festival of Poetic Expressions


And please also read:

Modern Artistic Expressions: Guidelines for Submitting Images and Poetry

Good art work is generally characterized by beauty, skill, inherent meaning, uniqueness and fulfilled intent.

These characteristics were evident in the works of art that were created by Ismaili artists around the world as the community celebrated the Golden Jubilee of the Imamat of His Highness the Aga Khan from 11th July 2007 until 13th December 2008.

Professional and other talented artists dedicated their time and material resources to create beautiful, imaginative, meaningful and unique works of art. Those with imaginative minds used words to their full potential and rendered marvellous and heart warming poetry.

The visual arts and poetic compositions reminisced about the community’s diverse cultural practices and traditions, conveyed messages of hope and happiness, and sought to bring forth the much cherished Islamic values of compassion, generosity and unity.

"Nature of Prayer", Mixed Media, Acrylic on Canvas (Original Size, 14” x 10”).  The Tasbih (Rosary) as a means to remind the constant presence of Allah through the invocation of Allah, Muhammad and Ali, by Nurin Merchant, 2008
“Nature of Prayer”, Mixed Media, Acrylic on Canvas (Original Size, 14” x 10”). The Tasbih (Rosary) as a means to remind the constant presence of Allah through the invocation of Allah, Muhammad and Ali, by Nurin Merchant, 2008

Art and Culture is receiving more attention from the younger generation in the community, as was seen by the number of objects that were created to commemorate the Golden Jubilee.  In the Visual Arts, contributions were in the form of paintings, sculptures and ceramics as well as photographs and electronic media.

Many contributions were steeped in mystery and symbolism while the contribution of several others clearly demonstrated the sentiments of love and affection that they shared with millions of Ismailis worldwide for their 49th Imam, Prince Karim Aga Khan, who has steered his community to even greater heights of spiritual and material well-being.

Alas, the works of many of these individuals go unnoticed or unrecognized. The works are mostly shared with families and friends.

There are two specific categories of art – and more in the future – that we want to launch on this web site to benefit artists and poets.

The first is in the visual arts area. We would like to offer Ismaili Artists in every continent and country an opportunity to showcase what they consider to be “good or extraordinary art work”. This showcasing will be done through the publication in this page, “Modern Artistic Expressions”, of finely scanned images submitted by the artists.

It is realized that photographs and images can never articulate the full essence and meaning of the original works, but they can provide clues about the skill levels of the artists and the quality of their works. Images offer some tangibility. Great art work portrayed through a magnificent picture can even evoke a strange nostalgia of owning the object or at least acquiring its print.

"The Good One", Mixed Media, Oil on Canvas (Original Size 48" x 36"), print of original Bernard Sarfran oil painting of the Aga Khan transposed onto canvas. Sides of canvas carry the attributes "The Generous", "Light", "The Majestic" and "One who is Good" in either a West African Script or Arabic. Painting by Hawa, 2004, private collection

There is another objective about this initiative which perhaps may be more important from the view of the artists and also art lovers.

We want artists around the world to get to know one another and to start collaborating to organize joint exhibitions – locally, regionally, nationally, and even internationally. Such exhibitions can be held in private or public art galleries, community centres, libraries, coffee shops and even airport terminals. The possibilities of venues and locations are endless!

Perhaps it is this collaboration within the artistic community that will set the pace to rid us of our “individualism”. We certainly have examples from His Highness the Aga Khan’s own initiatives which have brought talented individuals together, such as architects and designers, to form new partnerships and create new ventures.

Panel (20" x 12")

The second important initiative that we feel we can support is poetry. The question would be asked about categorizing poetry in “Artistic Expressions”.

Some years ago, a poet by the name of Bettie Sellers was reading from her compositions at a Folk School in South Carolina. The two poems that she read and discussed were about the Brasstown Bald Mountains in the North Georgia Mountains. At the end of the readings she went on to tell the audience that her first poem was like a landscape painting and the second one like a portrait painting.  “A poem is like a painting”, she observed.

Aristotle himself knew the merits of poetry. He remarked that poetry is superior to history “because it uses words in their fuller potential, and creates representations more complete and more meaningful than nature can give us in the raw”.

Ismaili history is full of poetic expressions which have represented the innermost religious and emotional sentiments of individuals who composed them and the community at large. Poetic expressions in the form of Qasidas and Ginans also impart stories and good moral and ethical teachings.

"Bewilderment", Oil on Canvas (Original Size 9" x 7"), Nurin Merchant, 2006
“Bewilderment”, Oil on Canvas (Original Size 9″ x 7″), Nurin Merchant, 2006

What is hoped – as in the visual art –   is once again a collaborative and concerted effort between  Ismaili Poets  (or those with  “Imaginative Minds” who write poetry). This can result in joint readings and performances and lead to a series of coordinated publications through private or community supported initiatives.

As of Monday, May 11, 2009 Simerg has started accepting images of your visual art objects and your poetic compositions – but before you send anythings please read:

Modern Artistic Expressions: Guidelines for Submitting Images and Poetry

We are hoping for a positive response over the next few days, months and years from all sectors of the Ismaili community around the world.


7 thoughts on “Art|Poetry

  1. This mixed media art work by Hawa with Bernard Safran’s portrait of Mawlana Hazar Imam reminds of Gulgee’s mosaic portrait at the Ismaili Centre/Darkhana Jamatkhana in London.


  2. Epigrams

    An epigram (an aphorism) grasps the thought on the wing – if lost, it’s gone forever. Life, living and values are the fodder of the reflecting mind and when an insight is expressed with precision and brevity, the epigram takes birth:

    To teach is one’s debt; to judge is not one’s right.

    When humility is for display can it be humility?

    Love forgives and Love withers pride.

    Avoid combat and let silence be the shield.

    The seeds always bear fruit but one must have the patience.

    The world applauds and in the same breath condemns: never fear opinion.

    Yesterday stooping under calamities I was feverish in my praise of God. Today, freed of my burdens, I am full of self-adulation.
    Good luck to you, SIMERG.

    salim e-a ebrahim

  3. Modern artistic expression site is very important work. I hope all the artists in the Jamat, and especially the young talented ones, will be able to express their art through this wonderful initiative. I believe this site to become a window of opportunity for young artists. Inshallah.

    • Sonny, thank you.

      Send me an email at

      Also, I propose to provide the technical details about image submission within the next two days.

      I am looking forward to hearing from other artists and individuals about the proposed initiative.


  4. This is a great initiative. Why didn’t someone do this sooner? The Colors of Love was a wonderful exhibition and must be showcased long after the golden jubilee. Hope that other artists will be encouraged to contribute to your website. Great work!

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