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Wang centreExhibition:
From Mecca to Sufi Shrines: Islamic Poster Art from South Asia
March 13 through May 24, 2019
Charles B. Wang Center, Skylight Gallery
Stony Brook, NY

Curated by Yousuf Saeed, an independent filmmaker and researcher based in India, From Mecca to Sufi Shrines showcases the ephemeral objects and devotional art produced for popular consumption in the Islamic world, in particular in South Asia. Included are mass-printed Islamic posters and calendar art from India and Pakistan, which often depict images of the Hajj pilgrimage; South Asian Sufi shrines and saints; and calligraphy and talismans linked to other religious faiths found in the region.

From Mecca to Sufi Shrines raises the question of why such vibrant visual cultures continue to thrive in the South Asian Islamic world despite the skepticism and suspicion of Islamic authorities on popular art’s legitimacy, as well as why images and popular culture are inevitabilities for popular piety despite orthodox Muslims’ increasing dissociation from them.

Stony Brook University
100 Nicolls Road
Stony Brook, NY 11794-4040
Phone: (631) 632-4400
Fax: (631) 632-9503

Kindly visit the exhibition, but do confirm with the Wang center before visiting. Here are some photos from the exhibit:


A 40-page full-colour mini-catalogue of these Islamic posters is available for sale.


SBU-NYRelated event: An inaugural lecture "Pluralism in the Devotional Islamic Art of South Asia"
By Yousuf Saeed
Wednesday, March 13, 2019 at 4 PM
Charles B. Wang Center Theatre
Free Admission!
Reserve your seat.

Among the vibrant examples of public art found in the towns and villages of India and Pakistan, the most popular are religious posters and calendars depicting deities, saints, and places of worship. Along with iconography of Hindu deities, a large number of Islamic posters that portray the shrines at Mecca and Medina or Quranic verses in calligraphy are also available, displayed beside portraits of local Sufi saints and their tombs, miracles, and other folklore.

Unhindered depiction of Sufi portraits in this popular culture often disrupts the stereotype of Islam’s iconoclasm and reveals nuanced sentiments of popular Muslim piety. These popular portraits and media also attract devotees to Hindu or Sufi shrines, despite such cultural hybridization being increasingly frowned upon by many Muslims influenced by puritanical Wahhabi ideology. Interestingly, Muslim artists or publishers do not necessarily produce all popular Islamic images. The publishing industry in South Asia doesn’t distinguish between the identities of the producers and consumers of these images, and by and large continues to remain largely syncretic.

This lecture by Yousuf Saeed features examples of popular visuality and rituals associated with Sufis and their shrines through images and videos. Two short documentary films, Basant (12 minutes) and Jannat ki Rail (7 minutes), will also be shown.


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