Prince Amyn was in Vancouver on 11 and 12 May to participate in the opening of a new exhibition at the University of British Columbia’s Museum of Anthropology.
Traces of Words: Art and Calligraphy from Asia, is a showcase of varied forms of expression associated with writing and words throughout the continent from different periods. The exhibition includes three historical pieces from the Silk Road that were donated by the Ismaili community to the Museum of Anthropology in 2013 — a 19th Century incense set, a 17th Century ceramic dish containing Arabic script, and a 9th Century sheet from the Holy Quran.
Dr Fuyubi Nakamura curated the exhibition with collaboration from the Aga Khan Museum in Toronto, which also lent two pieces of artwork from its own collection.
Speaking to a crowd of approximately 1,800 guests at Thursday’s public exhibition kick off, Prince Amyn talked about the importance of the relationships that the Aga Khan Museum has with other museums, including the Louvre in France and the State Hermitage Museum in St Petersburg, Russia.
“My hope is that our museum will now enter into [a] relationship of such a nature with [the Museum of Anthropology] too,” he said. “Together we can bring to students and the general public, unique insights — new perspectives on the dialogue of cultures that since all time have characterised different peoples residing in different areas of the globe, and which bind us together in a common cultural heritage, thus improving and broadening understanding, tolerance, and brotherhood.”
Dr Anthony Shelton, Director of the Museum of Anthropology, said that he shared in Prince Amyn’s desire for a deeper relationship between the museums.
“Prince Amyn, who is a collector himself, has an ongoing relation with various museums, such as the Museum of Modern Art, the Metropolitan Museum in New York, the Musee du Louvre in Paris, and we hope soon the Museum of Anthropology.”
Shelton presented Prince Amyn with two gifts: a halibut dish carved by First Nations’ artist Rupert Scow of the Kwicksuitaineuk, and six publications written on the Museum of Anthropology’s exhibitions.
On Friday, Prince Amyn returned to the Museum of Anthropology to deliver a lecture on calligraphy. He observed that the Muslim tradition of calligraphy started with the earliest written versions of the Quran in the mid-seventh century.
“The first word revealed to the Prophet Muhammad was iqra — recite — and the Quran continues that,” he said. “Allah taught by the pen, taught man what he knew not, bringing revelation and the transmission of faith, which is imparted by revelation, and knowledge in general.”
“From China to this country, from Russia to Africa, the widespread use of calligraphy still unites Muslims and visibly differentiates them from the followers of other religions,” continued Prince Amyn.
“It is a tradition which endures today amongst Muslims scattered across the globe.”
Traces of Words: Art and Calligraphy from Asia, will remain on display at the UBC Museum of Anthropology until 9 October.