Behind the headlines is a series of events at the Museum exploring the cultural context behind news stories from across the world, looking closely at objects from the Museum’s collection.
Before 2011, the Syrian art scene was limited by the number of galleries and spaces for showing work, and the government control of cultural institutions. Since the uprising, an outpouring of creative expression from artists across all levels of Syrian society has formed a response to the violence. This panel discussion, chaired by Malu Halasa, co-editor of Syria Speaks: Art and Culture from the Frontline, and including panellists Issam Kourbaj, Zaher Omareen, Khalil Younes and Venetia Porter, will consider the pre-revolution period through looking at British Museum objects, the change that revolution has bought to the country’s artists, and the new possibilities that lie ahead.
The British Museum
Friday 20 June
BP Lecture Theatre
Although she was ready to give
herself to me, I abstained
and did not accept the temptation Satan offered.
She came unveiled in the night,
illuminated by her face,
night put aside its shadowy
veils as well.
Each one of her glances
could cause hearts to turn over.
But I clung to the divine precept
that condemns lust and reined in
the capricious horses of my passion
so that my instinct would not rebel against chastity.
And so I passed the night with her
like a thirsty little camel
whose muzzle keeps it from nursing.
by Ibn Faraj (10th Century)
Poems of Arab Andalusia
Publisher: City Lights Publishers
Once I went out with her when the
shelter of night and her cape
let me mingle the fire of my breath
with the fire of her flaming cheeks.
I clasped her as a miser clasps
his treasure, and bound her tightly
with the cords of my arms
lest she escape like a gazelle.
But my chastity did not permit me
to kiss her mouth
and my heart remained huddled
over its embers.
You may well marvel at one
who feels his entrails on fire
yet complains of thirst
while holding the quenching water
in his throat.
Ṣafwān ibn Idrīs in the late 12th century fairly burns the page with desire in his poem -Poems of Arab Andalusia
Winds of change blow through research centres and universities operating in the Middle East.
(Image Credit: Northwestern University in Qatar Photo Gallery)
The Canon of Medicine by Ibn Sina (Avicenna in Latin), the studies on algebra and arithmetic of Al-Khwārizmī (Algoritmi), the Book of Optics by Ibn al-Haytham (Alhazen): these are just a few examples of Middle Eastern literature from the past that testify the outstanding contribution of Islamic intellect to modern science. However, statistics on the scientific impact of today’s Arab world portray a starkly different picture, with universities and research centres from these countries lagging well behind their Eastern Asiatic and Western counterparts1, 2. The output of publications from the entire Middle Eastern region in 2012 amounts to less than one quarter of that of the US1, and only three universities (two from Israel and one from Turkey) are listed in the top 200 institutions in teaching and research worldwide. Yet, an awakened community is now eager to trigger a scientific rebirth in this area.
The creation of scientific hubs able to both play a relevant role in the international community and involve an increasing number of Arab students in research may catalyse the change needed in the Middle East. Certainly, it will be interesting to observe the effects of these efforts on the scientific productivity of the next few years. In the long term, one only hopes that the exposure of young generations to a multicultural, curiosity-driven research environment will spark a new scientific golden age in the region.