Dar Al Athar Al Islamiyyah celebrated the opening of ‘Mirrored Nature: The Full Circle’, an exhibition of objects from the al-Sabah Collection curated by children from six to ten years of age, at the Amricani Cultural Centre on Tuesday evening.
The exhibition features over a hundred masterpieces from a wide set of chronological and geographical points of the Islamic world, presented with fresh eyes and unique interpretations from the ever curious and imaginative minds of children who have peered into ceramic jars to see the changing blues of the ocean or gazed upon a textile fragment to discover a magical story of two kingdoms at war with dragons and flowers within the rings and ropes of its design.
“This is the second time for the Dar Al Athar Al Islamiyyah, and one of the very few times in the world, children have been given the complete freedom to create an exhibition of objects from the collection that speak to other children. And for the second time, they have created an exhibition that appeals equally to adults”, Sheikha Hussa Sabah Al-Salem Al-Sabah states in the accompanying exhibition catalogue.
The Chief Curators from CAW 2018-19 were Aseel Abdelnaby Mohammed ElSayed, Asiya Al-Ali, Danah Ghazi Abdullah AlMaatouq, Deemah Mohammad Alattar, Fabiola Abdullah Al Yahya, Hala Fadi Shaheen, Haya Mohammed Mazen, Husain Ali Asger Chudiwala, Joud Fadi Shaheen, Malak Mahmoud Aljelani, Malik Sulaiman, Mohammed Abdelnaby Mohammed ElSayed, Nour Mohammed Mazen, Ola Raslan, Rashida Katabjiwala, Sama Mohammed Mazen, Sara Al-Ali and Shriya Sunil.
The team was managed by DAI volunteer and Director of CAW, Maha Khaled AlEssa. She stated that this exhibition was the conclusion of an exceptional education experience for the eighteen children under her care. She commended the vision and trust of DAI’s Director General Sheikha Hussa Al-Sabah and First Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Defence Sheikh Nasser Al-Sabah co-owner of DAI for providing the foundation to develop an experience of this magnitude.
“What we are trying to do, through cultural education, is to develop the mind by creating an interactive learning experience that allows young minds to explore, to utilize their existing knowledge and build on it through active participation, thus empowering them to be responsible for their own learning and development”, she remarked.
She pointed out of the six-month programme was to instil and develop qualities such as curiosity, patience, courage, determination, respect and responsibility on the belief that developing such qualities and combining the different skills through teamwork, assures success.
“What is so unique about this programme is that the end result and the content were not predetermined when we started. It was developed slowly through the children’s work. It is based on the belief that their abilities are there to deliver once given the chance”, she added.
One of the chief curators shared the experience on behalf of the team, “We have worked extremely hard on this exhibition. Before we started, we thought that creating an exhibition would be really easy but we didn’t know what was ahead of us. We learnt that nothing is as easy as it seems. On the first day, we had mixed feelings, from excitement to fear, from doubt to confidence. Over the weeks, we faced many challenges and we were able to overcome them together. What was hard and challenging for some of us, was easy for others.”
“During our collaboration, we managed to complete our tasks and take the results to the next level. But we must mention that the hardest part was thinking – to think in order to make a decision that would change the course of the exhibition, to thinking for writing, to thinking for drawing, to think to come up with something”, she continued.
She pointed out that despite the difficulties, it was very rewarding to see their own ideas and thoughts materialise to create something that they could be proud of to share with others.
“From this experience, we learnt patience, learned how to share our ideas, and learned so much about how to create an exhibition and above all, we have explored and developed our knowledge and talents, all of that while having fun and making new friends. It was an exhausting journey but fun. We have learned that not everything in life is easy and to get good results you always have to work hard and enjoy what you do. We will never forget our beautiful journey in Dar Al Athar Al Islamiyyah”, she added.
At the beginning of the process, the CAW kids visited the previous exhibition by kids, ‘Long Ago Zoo, Animals from the al-Sabah Collection’, to get a fair idea of what was expected at the end. The first step of the process was to pick a topic that could be inclusive of several types of materials. Early suggestions included ‘Kings and Queens’, and ‘Games’, but the final decision after tallying up the votes, was made in favour of ‘Nature’.
The second step for the children was to make a preliminary selection of objects to curate under the topic of nature from a staggering pool of 4000 objects from the al-Sabah Collection. During the elimination process, the kids worked on further developing the underlining theme of the exhibition in order to better focus on which objects to keep for the next step. This was done by sharing ideas and a healthy process of voting. The theme of ‘Mirrored Images’ was selected to denote repetitions in design.
The next step entailed studying the remaining objects to make the final cut. The children were tasked to write individual and unique labels for all 103 final objects. They were able to complete this task through teamwork and learned how to use reason and logic and also be creative and descriptive.
Following this, the young curators worked on creating a sequence, a story to tell by grouping the objects. Working in groups of three and adding members until the group encompasses all eighteen of them, they used trial and error, and experimented with several concepts to see which would work best in the presentation of their final objects. After much review and feedback, the kids reached the idea of displaying nature cycle stories through their selected objects.
One such example is that of the water cycle wherein – ‘water on earth from rivers, lakes and seas gets heated by the sun and turns to vapour rising in the air. This water condensates into a cloud and once it is heavy with water, then the rain starts to fall back on earth.’
For this, the children used a 7th-8th Century glass bowl from Syria to denote the sea and a 9th Century ceramic bowl to stand in for the sun. A marble fountain base from the East Iranian World, marked evaporation while a Jet Bottle from East Iranian world circa 10th Century, depicted a stormy cloud. A Syrian ceramic fragment from the 13th in the shape of a raindrop came in handy.
A ceramic ewer from the 17th Century also depicted rainfall while another glass bowl from 12th Century Iran is a placeholder for the sea, described by the curator as resembling the ‘Mariana trench, rising and turning into a water tornado.’
The children were involved in everything – from the design of the exhibition space to creating a logo to represent the entire exhibition. To discover the cycles of nature – the solar system, star life, seasons, rock and wave cycles, the life cycles of flowers, butterflies and peacocks, a trip to the Amricani Cultural Centre is highly recommended. For more information on the exhibition timings and other DAI activities, visit darmuseum.org.kw.
Story by Cinatra Alvares
Arab Times Staff
Photographs by Rizalde Cayanan, courtesy of DAI