Entrance to an Islamic paradise

2nd May 1997 at 01:00
Salaam: A Celebration of Art and Culture in the Muslim World. Glasgow, from May 9 through to 1998

In one of the most famous stories from the Tales of the Arabian Nights, Ali Baba discovers the secret words which open the cave where a store of fabulous treasures have been hidden. "Open Sesame'' is also an appropriate title for the exhibition which will launch Glasgow's festival of Muslim art and culture on May 9.

The idea for a year-long festival ("Salaam'' means "peace'' in Arabic) was conceived in 1993. Stefan van Raay, senior curator of art and co-ordinator of the festival, says: "We began discussing the idea of a series of festivals which would focus on the various ethnic communities represented in Glasgow. We saw this as a way to reach new audiences and to promote a tolerance and understanding of other cultures. As Muslims are by far the biggest ethnic group in the city, and we already have a large collection of Islamic artefacts with a specialist curator to look after them, it made sense to start there."

A steering group was formed in 1995, and what started out as a relatively small event snowballed into a programme of six exhibitions plus workshops, song and story sessions, lectures and demonstrations.

The festival's major event - and the one which will be of particular interest to primary schools and special needs - is the "Open Sesame'' show at Kelvingrove (to be reviewed on May 16). This runs from May 9 until next April and promises to be a magical experience - "A walk through an idealised Muslim city and beyond to an idealised Islamic paradise,'' in the words of co-curator Antonia Lovelace. Adding to the atmosphere will be some of the sights, sounds and smells of Arabia. All with a view to giving a better idea of Muslim culture, what it stands for and how it "permeates everything in this life and the afterlife''.

A related schools' programme will run at Kelvingrove for the duration of the show, with printmaking for Primary 4 and upwards, puppet workshops for Primary 6 and 7 and songs and stories for pre-school and P1. The programme, which is free and open to all schools, will operate during May and the first part of June and will be repeated twice when schools return in August.

Across the road at the Transport Museum will be "Truck Art'', throughout May, where visitors can watch a team of women from Karachi transforming a van and a bus from mere vehicles to things of beauty, with the help of school children's designs. The single-decker bus, decorated in contemporary Pakistani "truck art'' style will be used from the beginning of June to transport schools and community groups in the Glasgow area to and from the festival venue of their choice, free of charge.

Other venues they might visit include the Burrell Collection, which from June 13 until August 31 will host an exhibition of exquisite paintings, sculptures and prints, produced by Indian artists between the 16th and 19th centuries during a time of strong European influence; and the Gallery of Modern Art, where from July 4 to September 21 three modern British-based artists with Muslim roots will exhibit photographs, sculptures and installations.

At the St Mungo Museum on August 8 "The Veil in Islam'' opens for a six-month run and is expected to be both controversial and thought-provoking. A special video of interviews with Glasgow women who do and don't wear the veil has been prepared and workshops for senior pupils are scheduled from September to December (details from Jem Fraser).

* Brochures for the Salaam festival will be available from Glasgow museums and libraries.

* For details and bookings for Open Sesame workshops, contact education officer Jem Fraser, tel: 0141 287 2747.

* For details of the truck, contact Melanie Ingram, tel: 0141 287 5850. Schools and groups outside the Glasgow area can also book the multi-coloured bus but must pay.

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