We are very happy to announce the successful launch of our year-long series of cultural events “Converging Paths” developed and delivered with Asia House on February 12th, 2019.

The first event, attended by 150 people, was a series of talks entitled “Cultural Encounters in Medieval Islam”. The event comprised talks by Professor Scott Redford, Khalili Professor of Islamic Art and Archaeology at the School of Oriental and African Studies (SOAS), University of London; Professor Jeremy Johns, ┬áDirector of the Khalili Research Centre, Oxford and Professor of the Art & Archaeology of the Islamic Mediterranean; and Dr Jacquline Cockburn, freelance lecturer at the Victoria and Albert Museum and Christies Education. The discussion was moderated by Professor Doris Behrens Abouseif, former Khalili professor at SOAS.

The talks focused on the relationships between the artistic cultures of the Islamic and Christian worlds in Syria-Palestine, Sicily and Spain. Professor Redford’s talk argued that European heraldic devices came from the Islamic World through the Crusades (rather than the reverse). Professor Johns presented the continuity and also the breaks in the links between the artistic culture of Islamic Sicily and the art of ruling Christian dynasties. He also showed examples of the influence of Islamic Sicily in the design and technique of Medieval English art and architecture. Dr Cockburn demonstrated how Islamic art and architecture found a place in the artist languages of Christian Spain.

Professor Abouseif’s concluding remarks reminded us of the words of an 11th/12th century Muslim chronicler, who observed that while armies fought, merchants traded!

We were happy that the event appealed to diverse audiences, from people with a generalist interest in the subject to specialists in the field.