Encounters with Islamic Art

Over five weeks, Dr Sam Bowker of Charles Sturt University will lead a series of free lectures on Islamic art from contemporary Australian perspectives. Encounter the diversity and plurality of Islamic contributions to visual culture through spectacular and vernacular case studies from around the world.

Encounters with Islamic Art cover a subject matter that ranges over 1,300 years from Morocco to Indonesia, including objects, architecture, textiles and calligraphy in many languages. It's a global genre in art history, and it's complicated. The lectures are accessible to 'armchair travellers' and art scholars alike - all you need is a a desire to understand and appreciate some of the most beautiful things in the world. These free lectures are part of the only Australian university course on Islamic Art and Design, which is taught through Charles Sturt University.

The lectures are presented on Monday evenings in November and December at the Museum's Historic Council Chambers site.

Image: Dr Sam Bowker with the Syme Panels in the Khayamiya exhibition of the Albury Library Museum, February 2015. Photo by Kylie Esler

Course Outline

Date and Time Lecture Title
Monday 21 November 5:30 - 6:30pm

What is 'Islamic' Art? Introducing Calligraphy, Abstraction and Architecture

The first rule of Islamic art is that no-one really knows what "Islamic Art" is. This lecture reviews the context of 'Islamic art' as a field within art history, and introduces major collectors, scholars and resources, in order to establish what Australians might yet gain from and contribute to the study of Islamic art.

Then we'll look at the characteristic features of 'Islamic' art through the main forms that have defined this discipline, from calligraphy as a revered and imaginative expression to the creative complexity of geometric design. We'll conclude with an architectural wander from the mosque down the street, through the home and into the garden.


Image: eL Seed, Perception 2016 - a detail from a calligraphic installation over the Zebaleen neighbourhood in Cairo, Egypt.

Monday 28 November 5:30 - 6:30pm

Islamic Objects: Textiles, Ceramics, Metal and Glass

This lecture features two parts. In Textiles, we'll review Islamic contributions to costume, carpets, and khayamiya (Egyptian Tentmaker Applique). In Fireware, we shall study the diversity of Islamic ceramics, metalware and glass, noting some of the extraordinary objects that may define a global 'canon' of Islamic art.

Image: Textiles include Costume, Carpets and Khayamiya

Monday 5 December 5:30 - 6:30pm

A Journey Begins: From the Maghreb to the Middle East

This lecture begins our survey across the vast expanse of North Africa into the Middle East. Starting with Moroccan zillige tilework and moving towards Egyptian village tapestries and contemporary jewelery, we'll also explore the resplendent ajami rooms of Syria and introduce you to the political and folkloric heritage of Palestinian embroidery.

Image: Beit Ahmad Katkuhuda al-Razzaz in Cairo

Monday 12 December 5:30 - 6:30pm

Travels through Turkey, Iran, Pakistan and India

Once more we travel through the imperial art and architecture of the Ottomans, Persians, Mughals and Deccans, and the context of Iranian, Turkish and Indian art today. In our second half, we'll compare the monumental Taj Mahal to the decorated trucks of Pakistan in a splendorous showdown of the vernacular and spectacular.

Pakistani Truck

Image:  Pakistani Truck

Monday 19 December 5:30 - 6:30pm

Arriving in South-East Asia and the Gulf

In our final lecture, we arrive in South-East asia to study Malaysian and Indonesian forms of Islamic art, before concluding our journey at the most important site a Muslim can visit. From there, we'll review the situation of Islamic art and design today, as new museums open and old collections are revitalized for new audiences.

In an era of increasing urgency and competing interests, how can the past be protected for the future?

Paparuyung palace, Indonesia

Image: Paparuyung Palace, Indonesia

Course Registration

Please complete the below form if you would like to attend one or all of the lectures. Space is limited and this helps us to put out the right number of chairs.