museum review - Hajj: Journey to the heart of Islam
Written by Oryx
On JANUARY 26, the British Museum opens its first exhibition dedicated to the pilgrimage to Mecca. Hajj: journey to the heart of Islam explores how this spiritual journey has evolved throughout history.
Hajj: Journey to the heart of Islam will examine the significance of the Hajj as one of the Five Pillars of Islam, exploring the importance for Muslims of their sacred duty to make the journey to Mecca, if they are able, at least once in their lives. The exhibition draws from a number of different collections, bringing together a vast array of objects including important historic pieces as well as more contemporary artworks that uncover the lasting impact that Hajj has had across time and distance.
The focus of the exhibition is split into three topics: the pilgrim’s journey with an emphasis on the major routes used across time (from Africa, Asia, Europe, and the Middle East); the Hajj today, its associated rituals and what the experience means to the pilgrim; and Mecca, the destination of Hajj, its origins and importance.
Archaeological material, textiles, manuscripts, historic photographs, and contemporary art are among the objects loaned to the museum for the exhibition. A significant amount of the items on display come from collections in Saudi Arabia, and major public and private collections in the UK and around the world, among them the Khalili Family Trust. They document the long and perilous journey associated with the pilgrimage, gifts offered to the sanctuary as acts of devotion, and the souvenirs that are brought back from Hajj.
The rituals involved with Hajj have remained unchanged since its beginning, and it continues to be a powerful religious undertaking which draws Muslims together, irrespective of nationality or sect. Its deep emotional and spiritual significance continues to inspire a wide range of personal, literary, and artistic responses, many of which will be explored throughout the exhibition. The exhibition will also examine the social and political significance of Hajj in relation to global trade and the transmission of ideas.
Neil MacGregor, Director of the British Museum, said “The exhibition, Hajj: journey to the heart of Islam, will enable a global audience to deepen their understanding of the history and significance of the Hajj. In particular, it will allow non-Muslims to explore the one aspect of Islamic practice and faith which they are not able to witness directly, but which plays a major part in forming a worldwide Islamic consciousness.”
The exhibition, sponsored by HSBC Amanah, runs until April 15, 2012.
A catalogue, published by British Museum Press, accompanies the exhibition. Hajj: journey to the heart of Islam, is edited by Venetia Porter and features contributions by leading scholars.
The spirit of Hajj is evoked through images and illustrations of personal objects carried by pilgrims through the centuries; souvenirs collected along the route; early travel photographs; maps; manuscripts; wall paintings; compasses and astrolabes; textiles; and contemporary art works that capture the scale and emotion of Hajj today.