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MU exhibitions focus on cultures of Middle East, Central Asia

JournalNews Go! section
Sept. 7, 2007

For its fall exhibitions, the Miami University Art Museum explores the ethnic cultures of Central Asia and the Middle East.

“We see all these places in the news every day but we don’t understand enough about these various cultures,” said curator of collections Natalie Marsh.

To that end, the museum has been devoted to work that gives the cultures of the region their identity.

The lobby exhibition,“Jewels of Central Asia,” explores how jewelry and dress define a cultural heritage, ethnic affiliation, class or status and religious beliefs, Marsh said. The exhibition includes jewelry and clothing from a local collection and features a Turkoman bridal veil made of silver, precious gems, embroidery and bells.

All but two pieces in “Of Poems, Of Legends: Persian and Mughal Paintings” come from the museum’s permanent collection of elaborately detailed paintings dating back to the 16th century, including portraits, battle scenes, scenes of court life, hunting and calligraphic excerpts from the Qu’ran.

“Many of the paintings are from a later style that reflects a mish-mash of styles,” Marsh said. The research done in conjunction with this exhibition reflects new scholarship in the area.

The featured exhibition, “Tanks, Helicopters, Guns and Grenades: The Afghan War Rugs,” explores how the changing political landscape of Afghanistan, beginning with the Soviet invasion of 1979, has influenced the rug weavers of the area as they replaced traditional motifs with modern weaponry and warfare.

In these 80 “war rugs,” images of flowers, horsemen and minarets co-exist with helicopters, bombs, military aircraft and even the food packets that were airlifted into rural Afghanistan only to be fed to the goats.

The result is an art form that resides precariously “alongside contemporary and avant-garde art, and political
art and propaganda,” Marsh said. This exhibition will showcase approximately 80 war rugs from a private New York collection and offers a rare opportunity to investigate the complex historical, political and social realities of this region.

“Magic Carpet Ride” transforms one of the museum’s galleries into a tent with carpets and floor pillows along with artifacts from the museum’s collection of Near East, Middle Eastern and Central Asian rugs and ethnic dress. Harem tent hangings and a Bedouin camel bag and trappings will be on display.


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