What I knew nothing about is the Guljee painting in the Social Hall of The Ismaili Centre, London.
Times were plenty, when I was in the social hall with my parents or family all gathered together in celebration; New Year, Ramadan and many such festivities. People socialising, eating snacks served, juices or milk drinks. Conversation and smiles filled the room.
But you were always there just above the podium standing high and wide, enlightening the room with your presence from every aspect.
Everyone said you were beautiful, but the more I heard, the more I rebelled, and did not take notice.
Ironically, with the lockdown and my greater appreciation of art, I now thirst for you.
I remember you but not in enough detail, the search for you through various galleries has not been easy, but we have connected.
I see you now, a heavenly vision, the words of the Divine splashed across three large panels.
Like a mirage in a desert inviting, your iridescent colours draw me in. The swirling Arabic calligraphy takes the pitch of the sound following with the high on the right gradually bearing down and ending again with a high on the left. Metallic tone copper shimmering, I notice the materials used for the copper remove the rustiness and bring through a quality that glows throughout. In the middle, merging into grey silver and yellow cone ice cream to quench my thirst.
The painting was commissioned in the 1980s when the Ismaili Centre first opened in South Kensington across from the Victoria and Albert Museum. Gulgee was a renowned artist known for his skill for blending the east with the west, and the classical with the modern and abstract.
The artist Gulgee constructed it in a three panel landscape structure so that you could follow the divine words horizontally. The background in a warm gold colour mellowing into golden yellow tones and delicate browns on the top corners. Golds representing heavens above. The divine words translate as ”Allah is the light of the heavens and the earth”.
You awoke me, eyes to lightness
Thought of me; I had only
But beyond lay heavens
Divine words pouring from their cups
One need only look, meaning comes
This heavenly life; awaits you only once
Hope’s clear window allows light in, let it
Navroz; new hopes, new beginnings, start them with these divine words