Beginning this week, Australia plays host to RAYS OF LIGHT: Glimpses into the Ismaili Imamat. Opening first in Sydney, the photographic exhibition will travel to centres across the country in November and December, and on to New Zealand in the new year.

For Ismailis in both countries, the exhibition promises to be enlightening and inspiring. The Golden Jubilee International Programme, which depicts the first 50 years of Mawlana Hazar Imam's Imamat, has journeyed to Jamats around the world. It provides a chance for local Jamats to share aspects of Ismaili history, tradition and identity with friends and neighbours, and has sparked new conversations and understanding, as well as moving moments. Government, academia, civil society institutions and the corporate community can also gain deeper insight into the work and goals of the Ismaili Imamat.

Ismaili Muslims first arrived in Sydney in the early 1970s. In Australia and New Zealand, they found countries of opportunity that offered a better future, and to which they could in turn contribute. During the past two decades, Ismaili families from East Africa, South Asia and more recently Central Asia have settled in Australia and New Zealand, expanding the population and diversity of the Jamat in the region.

“We moved to Australia to improve the quality of life of our children and families, to give them a good and settled start in life,” remarks one Ismaili who emigrated from the Indian subcontinent in the early 1990s. The Jamat found comfort in discovering that the values tolerance and acceptance — so integral to the ethos of the Shia Ismaili tradition of Islam — are mirrored in the countries that they now call home.

RAYS OF LIGHT provides an overview of the work of the Ismaili Imamat over five decades. Propelled by the centuries-old mandate of Ismaili Imams to foster human development, the Imamat’s impact is evident in the multi-faceted initiatives of the Aga Khan Development Network, towards improving quality of life in the countries and regions in which it is established.

The exhibition’s tour through Australia and New Zealand is particularly fitting, given the strong bilateral relationships between AKDN and the aid and development arms of the governments of Australia and New Zealand. AKDN works with the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade in Australia and the New Zealand Aid Programme to initiate, fund and implement innovative development projects in places such as the Bamyan Province of Afghanistan.

RAYS OF LIGHT: Glimpses into the Ismaili Imamat will be showcased in Sydney from 7 – 9 November. It will then travel to Melbourne and be on display between 12 – 14 December. The exhibition will be in Auckland, New Zealand in the month of February.