All The World’s A Mosque: an exhibition in Tunis

Exterior view of All The World's A Mosque. Anna Seaman/The National
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This weekend, I was lucky enough to be in Tunis for the annual Jaou Tunis artistic conference, which took place in the Bardo Musuem in the Tunisian captial. Since the deadly attacks there in March, the arts and cultural community rallied to make this event bigger and better and as a culmination, Lina Lazaar, the founder of Jaou Tunis put on an exhibition to convey the peaceful and tolerant truth about Islam.

Although these images are a bit rough and ready - I took them myself with my iPhone - I wanted to share them with you because the event was a real milestone in terms of cultural engagement with the raging Islamophobia debate.

Lazaar chose 22 artists from around the Arab world, who addressed the subject of religion in a subtle yet provocative manner. The show's title All The World's A Mosque, was an attempt to show the plurarity of the faith. The artists within it also tackled that subject. Zoulikha Bouabdellah, for example, places sparkly stilettos inside rectangular prayer mat shapes to address the subject of feminity. Mahmoud Obaidi takes swords, for which the religion is known to have been spread by and constructs them into a tangled ball. Maha Mullah uses religious cassettes to make a wall installation and Ammar Al Attar photographs the mosaics behind the street water taps of the UAE, often used for ablution.

The overall setting, 22 shipping containers constructed in such a way as to resemble a mosque are also a a poignant metaphor. Ugly from the outside and made of “the least sacred material”, they represent the negative outward image of Islam. However, the beauty of the art on the inside, speaks of the religion’s highly peaceful core.

The show is up for three weeks but Lazaar assured me that it will travel to other international locations. Watch this space!