Marvellous Creatures: Animal Fables in Islamic Art’ opened at Museum of Islamic Art (MIA) Special Exhibitions Gallery yesterday.
It focuses on the real and mythical animals that appear in legends, tales and fables of the Islamic world.
Divided into the natural quadrants of fire, air, earth and water, the creatures introduce beloved classics, including Kalila wa Dimna, Shahnameh and One Thousand and One Nights.
The wide variety of exhibits — manuscripts, textiles, ceramics, jewellery, glass and metalwork — from the 10th to the 19th centuries, demonstrate the enduring appeal of the characters and stories across cultures and generations. Illustrations and motifs in the expo reflect the diversity of Islamic art production.
The exhibition takes visitors on a journey through a sensory experience, using storytelling in its forms — from colourful illustrations and visual displays to audio stories and animation.
“The timeless tales of Kalila wa Dimna, Shahnameh and One Thousand and One Nights highlighted in the exhibition will appeal across the community and diverse cultures, including children, young people and families.
“We hope the exhibition successfully introduces these stories to our audience who will carry the meaning of the tales into their lives and draw on their artistic and literary heritage to better understand the natural world and their place within it,” said Aisha Al Khater, Director, MIA.
There will be child-friendly and family activities, including interactive storytelling, late night family tours, puppet shows and creative art workshops, including a workshop where children can create their creatures.
A special Shahnameh Seminar will be delivered by scholars Dr Sheila Canby and artist Hamid Rahmanian, exploring the historic and artistic development of Shahnameh, the epic poem that tells the stories of heroes and rulers of ancient Persia.
MIA will offer late night tours, an evening talk ‘Spot the Elephant: Royal Processions in Mina’i and Lustreware’ and a Karagöz puppet show ‘Garbage Monster’ by Istanbul Karagöz Puppet Foundation.
An illustrated exhibition album highlighting key objects and stories in the exhibition is available at MIA Gift Shop. The free expo runs until July 11. The Peninsula
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