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The Museum at the King Abdulaziz Center for World Culture (Ithra) is dedicated to supporting the study and teaching of the history, art and architecture of Islamic cultures both in Saudi Arabia and beyond. Ithra also connects colleagues engaged in scholarly and professional activities related to these topics, and provides information about current programs and resources vital to the ongoing development of the discipline.

Ithra and the Abdullatif Al Fozan Award for Mosque Architecture are thus collaborating to present a three-day international conference on the study of the mosque to accompany Ithra’s exhibition Shatr Almasjid; the Art of Orientation. The conference aims to address the historic evolution, meanings and functions of the mosque.

With an interest in the cultural context of the mosque, this conference examines the complex interplay of theological, sociological, economic and artistic factors by looking at objects that relate to, or have been housed and used in such buildings. The speakers reflect on questions that address the experience and needs of the society that led to the introduction and development of forms and objects within mosques. What do tangible objects and forms tell us about the intangible history of such structures including their religious, social and civic functions within the communities they served?

Another important objective of both the conference, and an associated side exhibit, is to highlight the important function of museums in the study, preservation and presentation of mosque heritage as well as its role in the revitalization of Islamic artistic tradition by supporting the artisans who keep these precious art and craft traditions alive.

To provide new and fresh perspectives, this conference brings together broad range of scholars: art historians, curators, artists, architects and philosophers. They were selected both for their in-depth knowledge about particular types of mosques, objects or themes, and their elegant and thought-provoking insight into more general aspects of premodern Islamic culture related to the mosque.

What they all have in common is their willingness to engage with different ways of addressing the multifaceted nature of the mosque through objects. It is therefore hoped that through this conference, audiences can glimpse the breadth, complexity and multifaceted nature of the mosque.

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