– Review of an urban spiritual oasis…
By B.E. Adam
The Artists Circle’s Spiritual[C]ity exhibition has proved to be a success amongst the Brummies! The show took place between 2nd – 5th June at CitySpace Gallery in Birmingham city centre and was attended by hundreds of visitors! It aimed at depicting the Islamic faith in a positive light by exploring the creativity of Muslims within the West Midlands region.
The jam-packed upper floor of a city photography store had crowds buzzing to the oasis. Dubbed as “ground-breaking” by the local Brum paper Evening Mail, the show was just that, with a live radio crew on the day of the launch and coverage on BBC Midlands Today television.
Amongst those who visited were guests from the Arts Council England, including the Chief executive Peter Hewit. Abid Hussain the Diversity Officer for the Arts Council said it had been "A thoroughly enjoyable exhibition that provided a fascinating insight into Islam and the diversity of arts practice influenced by the faith." His words were echoed by many arts bodies throughout the Midlands who admired the spectacle of local talent.
The show was visited by people of all faiths, ages and backgrounds. People trekked as far as London and Glasgow to see the diverse artforms which included something for all art lovers. Youtea Films also attended the show, and filmed the event for a forthcoming documentary about Muslim artists. Usman Tufail, the founder of Youtea Films said it had been “..an extremely powerful event which seemed to capture something of being Muslim in Britain that others have either ignored or simply forgotten”.
One of the few graffiti artists who fuses aerosol with Islamic designs; Mohamed Ali was also featured. His work included Hijab a conceptualisation of the recent headscarf ban in some European countries. Indeed for lovers of politics Sajida Asifs’ We Don’t Need Another Hero was a remarkable portrayal of the feelings surrounding the recent war in Iraq.
But this wasn’t just a display of politics; it was a spiritual oasis of retreat. Farouq Molloys’ writing of the word “Allah” or God thousands of times onto different media including graph paper was a deep thought provoking experience. An experience giving rise to momentary pauses from busy city life and opportunities to reflect. Photographs of eastern doors and archways by Modasar Rasul were inspiring moments that have been captured in light. And for lovers of India, etchings by final year arts student Salma Ravat brought the Taj Mahal to Brum! The artwork ranged from mosques made out of sugar candy to newspaper architectural structures.
The Artists Circle was formed in October 2003 and were delighted at the success of the show. Chairperson Modasar Rasul, who works as a learning mentor at the local college said: “Spiritual[C]ity is the unprecedented first step by Artists Circle to use art to bridge the gap of misunderstandings and this is the beginning of a new era of Muslim expression.”
The show was sponsored by West Midlands Police and Islamic Relief.