Art: Sharjah Islamic Culture Museum 


An art installation in Bordeaux. 

This art installation, named Le miroir de l’eau, placed across from Place de la Bourse and designed by landscape artist Michel Corajoud is composed of about 2 cm of water which alternates in depth and rhythm, creating beautiful reflections of the heavens, the architecture and the children whom run around as if they are walking on clouds. I’m pretty sure the pictures on my Leica are muchhhh better… when I get home. 

Let’s talk about The Berbers: The Free People.

The Berbers are a 9000 year old ethnic group indigenous to North of Africa, whose customs and traditions still continue today.  The name Berber derives from Greek bárbaros, βάρβαρος, however they call themselves Amazigh which means ‘The Free People’ or or ‘noble men’. Their language and their culture have outlived many other ancient civilisations such as the Ancient Greek, the Latin, Phoenician and even the Egyptian.  The Maghreb region in northwestern Africa is believed to have been inhabited by Berbers from at least 10,000 BC. They live in tribal communities, and their roots reach deep into Morroco’s history as well as the neighbouring countries.  They are known for their very strong connection with the land, for having a very united sense of community, and for having a very specific (and beautiful) relationship with spirituality.

Today, most Berber people live mainly in Libya, Algeria, and Morocco. However, apart from these broad and simple facts, there is not much that is really known about who they are and what they believe in. They converted to Islamism during the Arab conquests, however they still remain true to their own culture and their own beliefs, living in the mountains, in small communities and remaining completely independent from the modern world. They are isolated, and as their name claims, free: they need little and create themselves everything that they need.  Through their art and their creations it is clear that they are true craftsmen, developing and nurturing their silver techniques and the making of intricate carpets in beautiful ways. Even their clothing becomes a means of expression of their own spirit: wild, free and beautiful.

They certainly seem to have a lot to teach us: living in perfect sync and balance with nature, being kind and good to the world, creating everything we need, being independent from everything and everyone, and lastly, making art to en-soul our own bodies. I was sort of sad that I didn’t have time to go see them in the Atlas mountains, where some of them now live. In another trip, it will definitely be a priority.

Painting by Jacques Majorelle of a Berber woman. 

Wood carvings, Berber Art.

Berber Jewelry.

See the Berber Museum here. 

The Hamsa: Symbolism

The Hamsa, is a symbol found throughout the Middle East and northern Africa. I found it everywhere in marrakech: adorning doors, defining jewellery accessories, decorating all of the stalls at the souks (the marrocan markets) and in the traditional art of the Berbers. I bought one in silver, hand crafted by the local artisans, and now that I am home, I was curious as to the origin of its symbolism.

I have found that the first known use of the symbol can be traced to the Phoenician (1550 – 330 BCE), and it was then adopted by the ancient Sephardic Jewish community of the Iberian Peninsular. In this way, the Hamsa became associated both to the Jewish community and to the Islamic one. In the Jewish community it is called the Hamsa Hand or the Hand of Miriam (Miriam was the sister of Moses and the legend has it that it was due to Miriam’s virtues that the Israelites always found water during the forty years they wondered through the desert on their way towards the Promised land.). Where as in Muslim communities it is called the Hand of Fatima or the Khamsa (after Fatima Zahra, daughter of the Prophet Muhammad).

In both religions it is an amulet shaped like a hand (with three extended fingers and a curved  thumb or pinky finger on either side) that holds the same symbolism: a protection against the ‘evil eye’ (jealousy or malice), bringing its owner happiness, luck, health, and good fortune. The evil eye was also considered to be one of the oldest manifestations of human fear. The holder of the Hamsa, thus, expects to be protected from all negative energies. Because it is a symbol of such good fortune, it can also symbolise the Hand of God. In general, in our modern world, the Hamsa has become a symbol of hope and peace.

My modern day Hamsa