By NONTOBEKO AISHA MKHWANAZI
ONE of the teachings of the Quran is shura, which means ‘consultation’ or ‘to seek advice’. The Quran promotes the spirit of shura amongst believers so that they may decide upon all issues by discussion and counsel.
This inspired the Mashurah Arts Exhibition, which ran from July 24 to September 30, at Greatmore Studios, in Woodstock, Cape Town.
London-born curator and writer, Sara Bint Moneer Khan, who founded the exhibition as part of her current PhD study on visual literacy and art advocacy in Cape Town’s Muslim community, said the exhibition aimed at practising the process of communal decision-making, reciprocal consultation and learning, to explore Muslim epistemologies, visual culture, narratives and histories in the context of South Africa.
‘This show is an immediate response to my experience of the art space when I moved to South Africa from the UK. I encountered a lack of representation, sometimes misrepresentation and misunderstanding of Muslim narratives, as well as a lack of engagement and support for artists from these communities.
‘I then figured that creating a space for collaboration, development, dialogue and dissemination of artistic practices, with a special focus on Muslims and Islam in South Africa will not only be vital for the continuation of the legacy of artists who have been present in the past but will create a platform to uncover these issues and promote dialogue,’ explained Khan.
This project has been underway for the past two years and Khan engaged with 20 artists for the exhibition. A variety of mediums were used, from painting to photography, sculpture and video installation.
On September 25, the Mashurah Exhibition held an event where artists could meet and interact with the audience in order to get an insight into what had inspired their artworks.
During the event, Khan noted that the different thoughts which exist in society about mashurah as an exhibition were encapsulated through the work of Hanna Noor Mohammad, titled ‘A Postcoloni+ I Probe’.
‘The first artwork is a mind map which highlights mashura, strategic essentialism and diaspora art. Strategic essentialism (comes from essentialism which can be negative stereotypes) is strategically using the stereotypes to mobilise a group of people,’ Hanna explained.
‘Gayatri Spivak, who actually coined the term, also rejected it. Which then makes it this muddle of identity politics and within it arises a question of whether it is helpful to use stereotypes or not and that led me to diaspora art.
‘I got it from Zarina Muhammad from the White Pube who speaks about the problem with it and how it doesn’t actually do anything but potentially enforce the same stereotypes. The artwork is basically my take on the entire showcase of what it is and what it is not,’ explained Hanna.
During the event, Khan also noted that the concept of Islamic art was problematic in society.
‘This concept is problematic because a lot of things get excluded all in the name of they are not Islamic. Islam is unlike other religions; it’s a way of life, meaning that everything from waking up in the morning, sleeping at night, walking in the street and even interacting with other people involves Islam… It is such things that should be discussed so we can open more room for different narratives in order to move forward,’ stated Khan.
Shukri Adam’s artwork titled ‘A Koples Now’ highlights the concept of hope and fear. Adam says that, at times, Muslims just become receivers of knowledge and due to fear are too scared to ask more and just blindly follow. Yet the Quran encourages Muslims to ask questions and seek better understanding.
‘The term ‘koples’ is a Cape Malay [Afrikaans] term for madrasah [lessons]. I chose this term because my artwork revolves around the notion of learning, unlearning, and also highlighting the nuances, as well as overt cultural and traditional aspects of ideology versus culture and everything that it stems from.
‘How it evolves and what it brings with it and how human beings taint, influence and mould it as we go along… It also involves how we mould reality and versions of things which can either distort or enhance our imaan,’ claimed Adam.
The exhibition also touched on the continuation of the legacy of Muslim artists in the history of the Cape Town Muslim community.
‘One of the artists highlighted that if Tuan Guru were alive, what artist would he have been if he had an opportunity to develop his creativity and view himself as an artist who is creative for the sake of developing the Muslim community? There are numerous ways of communicating with the past and continuing the legacy, and this exhibition was a representation of an ongoing legacy,’ said Khan.
For more information you can email firstname.lastname@example.org view the artwork on Instagram: @mashura_arts or YouTube: Mashura arts (The walk through exhibition is also available on YouTube).