Mizna مزنه

Founded over in 1999 by Kathryn Haddad and Saleh Abudayyeh, Mizna is an Arab-American not-for-profit organization promoting the artistic and cultural production of contemporary South West Asian and North African (SWANA) artists. Mizna is based in the Twin Cities (Minneapolis-Saint Paul), Minnesota, USA.

The online platform aims at “reflect[ing] the depth and multiplicity of [the] community and has been committed to being a space for Arab, Muslim, and other artists from the region to reclaim [their] narratives and engage audiences in meaningful and artistically excellent art.”

Through Mizna, audiences have the opportunity to engage in the work of Arab and Muslim artists on its [sic] own terms. And our community has a critical opportunity to see some facet of their own experience reflected on the page or the screen.

https://mizna.org/about/

Since the beginning, the organization has been publishing a biannual literary journal entitled Mizna: Prose, Poetry and Art Exploring Arab America. As of 2021, 38 issues had come out, some of which are still available for purchase on the website. Over the years, more than 400 writers have contributed to Mizna among whom Suheir Hammad, Mahmoud Darwish, Laila Lalami, etc.

In 2003, Mizna engaged in producing the Twin Cities Arab Film Festival (TCAFF) which has become “the largest and longest running Arab film fest in the Midwest”. TCAFF has been showcasing contemporary cinema from the Arab World and from the Arab diaspora, produced by emerging, independent, and established filmmakers, with the objective to present the Arab and Arab American communities in all their complexity far from the stereotyped ways in which they are often depicted in mainstream Western media.

Today, Mizna is run by a Board of Directors and a team of eighteen staff members: an artistic director numerous program curators, event and communication coordinators, editors, and teachers.

The organization was named a Regional Cultural Treasure in 2021 by the Ford Foundation and McKnight Foundation, and received several cultural awards such as multiple Knight Arts Challenge Awards, and the Ordway’s Sally Award for Social Impact. Mizna is funded and supported by:

To be informed of their activities, it is possible to sign up for the newsletter, follow them on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Flickr, and YouTube.

Islamic Manuscripts at Morgan library and museum

Morgan Library & Museum, located in New Your City, is a museum and an independent research library and is famous for its manuscripts’ collections which mainly consists of medieval and Renaissance manuscripts, yet Morgan Library and Museum houses various important Islamic manuscripts as well.

An online exhibition, “Treasures of Islamic Manuscript Painting from the Morgan” show cases some of these manuscripts containing exceptional paintings as well as religious and secular documents. These manuscripts range from the one that highlight works of “science, biography, history, and poetry” to Qur’an manuscripts. This exhibition provides access to a rich and diverse collection of Islamic manuscripts dating from the late Middle Ages to the nineteenth century.

“Included are such important manuscripts as the Manāfi˓-i hayavān (The Benefits of Animals)—one of the finest surviving Persian examples—and the richest illustrated life of the beloved poet Rūmī (1207–1273). Also featured are pages from the Mughal and Persian albums that Pierpont Morgan acquired in 1911 from Sir Charles Hercules Read, Keeper of British and Medieval Antiquities at the British Museum, and miniatures illustrating the work of great Persian poets.”

Manuscripts are digitized with high resolution which makes it easy to look at various details and vivid colors in paintings. Each page or painting comes with a more detailed information about its time of creation as well of a description about its content.

Youth Flexing a Bow
Al-Su˓ūdī, The Valley of Diamonds and Jewels

To read more about how the Morgan’s Islamic collection came to existence click here .

Collection of Persian, Mughul and Indian Traditions Miniature Paintings

The Minassian collection consists of numerous precious miniature paintings from the Persian, Mughul and Indian traditions. The manuscripts and miniature paintings of this collection are housed in John Hay Library at Brown University.

“Figure lying on bed in outdoor setting is watched by four other figures. Possible funeral scene. The text that is second from the top, encased in the peachish area, says, in Arabic, “Bismillah e rehman i rahim”.
“Leaf” Minassian Collection of Persian, Mughal, and Indian Miniature Paintings. Brown Digital Repository. Brown University Library. https://repository.library.brown.edu/studio/item/bdr:80654/

This collection is from the estate of Mrs. Adrienne Minassian the daughter of an active art collector and dealer of Islamic and Near-Eastern antiquities, Kirkor Minassian (1874-1944), he was based in New York and Paris in the early 20th century. Mrs. Minassian continued her father’s legacy and she too was one of the few dealers of Islamic art in America. After her passing in a serries of bequests her collection was given to Brown University. To read more about Mrs. Minassian and her Father click here.

This collection is accessible online through the Brown University Center for Digital Scholarship.

The paintings often include text from Persian and Indian tales. Many of the illustrations within the Minassian Collection are depictions of stories from the classical Persian text, Shahnama of Ferdowsi.

Black ink drawing of male bust in profile. Fine line quality, no color used.
“Leaf” Minassian Collection of Persian, Mughal, and Indian Miniature Paintings. Brown Digital Repository. Brown University Library. https://repository.library.brown.edu/studio/item/bdr:80739/

Physical Description: Excellent workmanship on miniature. Image in excellent condition, slight damage to surrounding paper. Paper is rather heavy, but not coarse. Water stain evident on verso. Beautiful specimen. Colors appear as brilliant as inlay. Leaf is very similar to a depiction of Yusof published in Soudavir which is identified as Bukhara style.
“Leaf” Minassian Collection of Persian, Mughal, and Indian Miniature Paintings. Brown Digital Repository. Brown University Library. https://repository.library.brown.edu/studio/item/bdr:80651/

the collection can be browsed based on 3 Thematic Categories of Image and content, Material and Technique and Style and Type. Under each category there are more sub-categories. On the item level a description consisting of an abstract of the item and a note is provided, which present more detailed technical and historic information about the paintings style and content .

From Pen to Printing Press: Ten Centuries of Islamic Book Arts

Is a permanent online exhibit*. This online exhibit is showcasing materials and tools of Islamic literate culture housed in Indiana University collections. It explores various categories of items including Pens, Inks, Modern calligraphies and Marbled papers, Persian and Mughal illustrated manuscripts, Miniature manuscripts and Scroll, Ottoman devotional works.

These various items/topics are presented in five main categories of Writing Implements and Materials, Manuscripts, Paintings and Illustrations, Miniature Manuscripts and Scrolls, Early Printed Books and Modern Revivals. Each category begins with a historical or background information on the topic and its various aspects and continues to introduce some of the significant sample/item in that category. Also, each item comes with detailed information regarding the physical description of the item, content, date and location.  

“This Arabic-Turkish dictionary is the first printed book from the Müteferrika press. This book includes as front matter many of the legal documents the publisher acquired in order to receive permission to produce his printed books. These legal documents have been reproduced as front matter in each copy of this particular book.”

Miniature Qur’an, 19th century, Iran. Available at Lilly Library, Adomeit Miniature Islamic Manuscripts C3.

This online exhibit has also dedicated a section called “Explore Manuscript” to six manuscripts specifically, in order to provide a visual overview of Islamic manuscripts, manuscripts illumination. Some of these six item are religious text some are literary work and they showcase artistic and thematic forms of Islamic book art traditions.

These selected manuscripts are consists of Shamshir Khani (Near Eastern mss Firdawsi Shahnama), Jami’s “Haft Awrang”, a Miniature Qur’an, an Illustrated Prayer Book (Duʿaname), Fragment of Kufic Quran and Qur’an (Juz’ 9 of 30) and their formal and decorative elements such as bindings, illuminated frontispieces, chapter headings, and illustrations have been highlighted.

A Mughal Nobleman

“This single folio painting, extracted from a manuscript or album, depicts a kneeling man in half-profile. The sitter is wearing a highly embroidered robe and bears a dagger upon which his right hand rests. The embroidered robe and ornamented dagger both help identify this person as a high ranking Mughal official. The sitter’s clothing and jewelry are rendered with great detail, as is the bowl and the fabric of the pillow. The background consists of a green hill with scattered trees and a grey cloudy sky. This portrait probably dates from the Jahangir (1605-27) period or the early Shah Jahan (1627-58) period. Jahangir period paintings are recognizable by their forest green backgrounds. Likewise, many albums were made which include the portraits of court officials.”

* “This permanent online exhibit is an adaptation of the Indiana University Art Museum special exhibition, From Pen to Printing Press: Ten Centuries of Islamic Book Arts on display March 7-May 10, 2009.” https://web.archive.org/web/20180521060600/http://www.iub.edu/~iuam/online_modules/islamic_book_arts/exhibit/index.html

Islamic Art at The David Collection

The David Collection is a museum of fine and applied art in Copenhagen, Denmark, built around the private collections of lawyer, businessman and art collector C. L. David.

The museum is particularly noted for its collection of Islamic art one of the largest in Northern Europe. The collection of Islamic art contains works from almost the entire Islamic realm, from Spain in the West to India in the East and dating from the 7th to the 19th centuries.

Islamic Art Collection

The Islamic works of art are presented from three different perspectives: Islamic art organized chronologically and geographically, Islamic art grouped according to material, and Islamic art presented in its cultural context.

Dynasties and Geography

The works of art here are divided into 20 sections according to specific epochs and dynasties and according to different geographic regions. Each of the 20 sections provides a historical introduction, a map, a selection of works of art, coins, and architecture.

Materials

The objects are categorized into eight different groups. This makes it possible to see how both stylistic features and techniques were developed within a specific medium both over time and across geographical borders.

Calligraphy / Miniature Painting / Ceramics / Glass / Stone and Stucco / Ivory, Wood, and Papier-mâché / Metalwork, / Weapons, and Jewelry / Textiles, Carpets, and Leather

Cultural-history Themes

Focusing specifically on the cultural background for art in the Islamic world, this section illustrates fourteen themes of special relevance. Each theme is illustrated with a selected group of objects, accompanied by an explanatory text.

Islam, the Religion \The Five Pillars of Islam \ The Prophet Muhammad \ Mecca and the Kaaba \ Sunni and Shia \ The Mosque \ The Religious Prohibition Against Images \ Symbolism in Islamic Art \ Islam in China \ Sufis \ Dervishes, and Holy Men \ Trade, Measures, and Weights \Mechanics, Astronomy, and Astrology \ Medical Science \The Art of War

bina : collections patrimoniales numérisées de la BULAC

bina is the digital collection of the Bibliothèque Universitaire des Langues et Civilisations (BULAC), an academic library established in 2001 to centralize the “Oriental” collections of nine parisian academic and research libraries. The wide-range of geographical areas covered by BULAC go from the Balkans, to Oceania passing by the Middle East, Central Asia, Africa, and Asia. BULAC’s mission revolves around three axis: gathering these “Oriental” collections in a single location, promoting and supporting open access, and facilitating worldwide scholars’ access to the materials.

The Middle Eastern, North African and Central Asian collections of BULAC include 235,000 monographs and over 800 periodicals. In addition, the library owns approximately 4,000 “Oriental” manucripts and rare books dating from the 16th to the 19th century. The online cataloguing of these rare collections started in 2013 and the digitization in 2016. At the time of our visit (June 2021), 248 Ottoman Turkish, 150 Persian and 61 Arabic manuscripts and archival documents had been scanned and were available in bina.

The XML-EAD standard initally used to describe these rare materials was not fit to reflect the linguistic and paleographical variety of the collection and the multiple transliteration systems used to transcribe non-roman scripts. Therefore, BULAC worked in collaboration with the Agence bibliographique de l’enseignement supérieur (ABES) to develop bibliographic descriptions and authority records matching the codicological and onomastical specificities of these collections. Those interested in learning more about this cataloguing project can read the following articles (in French):

Navigating bina digital collections can be done in three different ways. The simple search available from the top-right corner of the page will search simultaneaously the title, author, date, description, format and subject fields. The advanced search available either by clicking on the “Rechercher” tab or opening the drop-down menu in the simple search will allow to target specific fields and cross-search them. The Index search allows to browse materials by author, language, type of document and call number.

The metadata is divided in four categories: Notice (bibliographic data), Matérialité (physical description), Contenu (content) and Conservation (location).

The online viewer allows to browse volumes, jump to a specific page, display a single page, double pages or a gallery. It is also possible to save pages either as image of PDF (one page at a time), share (with a permalink) or embed the image elsewhere. Unless otherwise stated, all materials are out of copyright and free of use. For more technical and legal information, you may visit this page.

bina interface is in French.

Two valuable collections of Islamic materials @Library of Congress

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The Library of Congress houses, preserves, collects and makes accessible numerous valuable and historical materials from across the globe in different languages, forms and subjects, this includes  a noteworthy collection of rare Persian language materials. This collection is part of the “African and Middle Eastern Division (AMED) and the Rare Book and Special Collections Division” and includes various rare materials of early print books, lithographic books and manuscripts.

Qurʼān. [1739 or 1740, 1739] Manuscript/Mixed Material. Retrieved from the Library of Congress, <www.loc.gov/item/2017406495/>.

Sūrat al-Qāf. [18th Century] Manuscript/Mixed Material. Retrieved from the Library of Congress, <www.loc.gov/item/2017498316/>.

According to the Library of Congress most materials in this collection was acquired in 1930s through a well-known dealer in fine Islamic and Near Eastern arts, Kirkor Minassian. This acquisition includes rare manuscripts and books in Arabic, Persian, Armenian and Turkish language, however the rare Persian language collection grew beyond Minassain acquisitions as the library continued to acquire more materials from other sources as well as to receive rare collections in a form of donation from generous people.

Ṣāfī, Aḥmad Rashīd, Scribe, Ibrāhīm AdʹHam Gharbaldah Balawī, and Charles C McVicker. Qurʼān
. [18–?] Manuscript/Mixed Material. Retrieved from the Library of Congress, <www.loc.gov/item/2010471600/>

This collection consists of materials in different subject and disciplines from the entire Middle East. However, literary works and historical lithographs makes up for much of the collection.

“A number of these items are exquisitely illuminated anthologies of poetry by classic and lesser known poets, written in fine calligraphic styles, and illustrated with miniatures. Many also have beautiful bindings. A number of the illuminated books are multilingual works, which include Arabic and Turkish passages in addition to Persian, focusing on scientific, religious – philosophical and literary topics, and others are holy books important to all confessional traditions within the Islamic world.”

In 2014 in an exhibition, called “A Thousand Years of the Persian Book” that was held by The Library’s Near East Section, 40 items of rare Persian collection were shown to the public, this exhibition led to a digitization project in 2015. As a result of this ongoing project up until now 169 lithographs of the Collection are digitized and made available.

This beautifully organized collection can be accessed here. Each record provides access to a digitized format of the item as well as a description about the item such as a physical account, bibliographic information and when available summary of the content.

In addition to the abovementioned collection, Library of Congress also provided to a large collection of Arabic script calligraphy sheets from 9th to 19th century. 373 calligraphy sheets can be browsed online which mainly consist of fragments of Quran written on paper or parchment.

Access the collection here.

This beautiful collection also provides detail description for each item as well as script of the presented sheet, calligraphic style, date and physical account of the item. This collection also includes a section of Special Presentations:
Calligraphers of the Persian Tradition
Ottoman Calligraphers and Their Works
Qur’anic Fragments
Noteworthy Items

Khamseen Islamic Art History Online

Khamseen: Islamic Art History Online is a brand new open-access platform making available Islamic art, architecture, and visual culture resources primarily to support the interactive learning and teaching of Islamic art history, and in particular educators “who face limited access to institutional and archival resources”, but also to “educate and inspire interested audiences outside of academia”.

This very promising platform was launched in October 2020 under the supervision of Christiane Gruber, Professor of Islamic art at the University of Michigan. The project received financial support from The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation and is sponsored by the  Digital Islamic Studies Curriculum (DISC) at the University of Michigan.

At the time of our visit, Khamseen included a series of ten to fifteen minutes-long video presentations focusing on a variety of topics: Persian miniatures, Mosques architecture, textile in traditional Tentmaking, etc. To date, no less than twenty-five international Islamic art history specialists contributed to the the platform.

Additional resources included the following:

A selection of Teaching Resources for Islamic Art

An Audio and Video Recording Tools Guide

The recording of a 90-minutes Discussion of Online Resources for Teaching Islamic Art between Khamseen founder Christiane Gruber, Ruba Kan’an (Assistant Professor of Islamic Art and Architecture, University of Toronto), Michael Toler (Archnet Content Manager, Aga Khan Documentation Center at MIT), and Matt Saba (Visual Resources Librarian for Islamic Architecture at the Aga Khan Documentation Center at MIT)

Further developments of Khamseen will focus on: “(…) expand[ing] the range of subjects and materials to provide a rich repository of resources in the realm of digital Islamic humanities, [and] (…) expand[ing] the project’s accessibility and foster a global audience through closed captioning and providing content in multiple languages [seeking] to take the study of Islamic art out to the world, reaching a truly international level of engagement and learning thanks to the possibilities of integrated digital technologies.”

Interested people can find more information about the platform or follow future developments on social media: @khamseenislamicart (Instagram), @TeamKhamseen (Twitter), @KhamseenIslamicArt (Facebook).

Islamic Art @Victoria and Albert Museum

Victoria and Albert museum (V&A) of art and design’s collection contains over 2.3 million objects showcasing 5000 years of human art and creativity. The Museum’s collection consists of UK’s national as well as international collections. These collections contain wide range of resources for learning, research and study of various topics such as: architecture, book arts, sculpture, Asian art and design and etc.

Since the beginning of the V&A in 1850’s and when Queen Victoria laid the first stone of the Museum in 1899, Museum’s mission has been to provide tools and ways of learning and engaging with their collection. Moreover, building an excellent collection with global relevance and attracting international audiences and collections has always been part of their mission; therefore, V&A collected various outstanding resources and examples of human art and creativity from around the world. 

In that regard, the V&A houses a great collection of Islamic art, which holds more than 19000 artifacts and items from early Islamic era to early twentieth century from Middle East and North Africa.  This great collection usually can be visited in the Jameel Gallery of Islamic Art, however, now that due to COVID-19 situation the Gallery is closed, the highlight of this collection is accessible digitally and can be found here.

This very well organized collection also provides exclusive information about the item’s history, place, date, material, techniques that were used in creation of the objects.

V&A Museum has a rich collection of South Asian artifacts which is described as: “The collections from South and South-East Asia comprise nearly 60,000 objects, including about 10,000 textiles and 6,000 paintings covering the Indian subcontinent south of the Himalayas, including India, Pakistan, Nepal, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka and Afghanistan. The range of the collection is immense.”

South Asian Collection Highlights

Calligraphy as an astonishing form of Islamic Art also made its way to V&A collection and can be visited here, also at the end of the page a slideshow of different objects of the collection featuring beautiful work of calligraphy from different style, era and techniques.

“Tray featuring a calligraphic script, 1330 – 60, possibly Syria or Egypt, brass. Museum no. 420-1854. © Victoria and Albert Museum, London”

Kashkul / كشكول

Kashkul is a collective composed of Iraqi, Kurdish and American students, artists, and researchers based at the American University of Iraq, Sulaimani (AUIS). The group aims at collecting, preserving, translating when necessary, and making available to the general public literary, artistic, and archival materials produced in Iraq. A partnership with the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA) allows Kashkul to publish their collections through the International Digital Ephemera Project (IDEP).

Directed by Dr. Elizabeth Campbell, Professor of Middle East History at Daemen College in Amherst, New York, and Dr. Marie LaBrosse, an independent writer, translator and poet, who both used to work at the American University of Iraq, Sulaimani (AUIS), Kashkul also includes six scholars focusing on the numerous projects. In 2017-2018 and 2018-2019, the collective welcomed two artists-in-residence: Kurdish painter and sculptor Ismail Khayat and Mexican poet David Shook.


Past and current Kashkul projects include:

  • Crux “aims to understand how devotion becomes violent and how violent devotion can become peaceful.” Crux relies on case studies of specific areas and creates “in-depth profiles of Islamic thought leaders who are influential within these communities.”
  • Talabani Tekiye studies the theology and religious practice of the Talabani Tekiye and Mosque of Kirkuk, a bastion of liberal Islam, “and how, over generations, people have maintained their openness.”
  • Mosul Lives is meant to provide “a picture of daily life in Mosul, before the Islamic State, and the American presence of 2003.” This projects is based on extensive interviews.
  • Handmade “documents traditional crafts and practices in Iraq and its Kurdish regions and the stories of those who continue them, preserving the cultural heritage of daily life.”
  • Film, Music and Art Archives aims at collecting and preserving “contemporary culture in Iraq and its Kurdish regions.” The database features a personal library for each artist including scans of their works, translation, subtitles, etc.
  • Arrival‘s goal is the publication of an anthology of Kurdish poetry in translation. Currently, the project focuses on selecting, translating, analyzing and comparing “critical literary contributions from every century of Kurdish poetry.”
  • The Abu Ghraib Collection includes “letters, objects, and books made by a political prisoner in Abu Ghraib under Saddam Hussein” showing “how prisoners maintained hope, connection and the ability to express their ideas.”
  • The Referendum collection focuses on “how people and their political parties campaigned, expressed opinions, and voted.”
  • The Stone Man was a collaboration between artist-in-residence Ismail Khayat and student artists  that resulted in a retrospective of Khayat’s work as well as a sculpture garden (The Stone Garden) located on the AUIS campus.
  • Kashkulistan is a manuscripts, and artifacts collecting, cataloguing and digitization project lead in collaboration with regional archives, collectors and scholars.


If you want to learn more about Kashkul and be informed of their activities, you may follow them on Instagram: @kash_kul