Loan Program / Exhibition

And the conversation continues, Syria: A Living History

Ismaili Centre Dubai

Oud Metha Road, Bur Dubai

March 17 – 20, 2017

Press Release

Art Exhibition at Ismaili Centre presents artwork and artist from Syria that communicate a story of cultural diversity, historical continuity, resourcefulness, and resilience.

Dubai, 17 March 2017: And the Conversation Continues, Syria; A Living History From the Atassi Collection , an art exhibition, marks the fourth year of partnership between Art Dubai, The Aga Khan Museum, the Consulate General of Canada in Dubai and the Ismaili Centre Dubai. The art exhibition took place at the Ismaili Centre in collaboration with Atassi Foundation, and The Big Heart Foundation (TBHF), an initiative of Her Highness Sheikha Jawaher bint Mohammed Al Qasimi, wife of His Highness The Ruler of Sharjah, United nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) and an Eminent Advocate for refugee Children.. 

Few countries have captured the world’s attention like Syria has today. Stories of conflict and displacement dominate the media and define people’s awareness of the place. Syria: A Living History, an exhibition brought to life last October at the Aga Khan Museum in Toronto  through the collaboration between seven international museums and private collections, brings together artifacts and artworks that tell a different story—one of cultural diversity, historical continuity, resourcefulness, and resilience. These works of art & antiquities are being exhibited together for the first time and have given the audiences a unique insight into the marvelous cultural traditions of both ancient and present-day Syria, thereby underscoring the dialogue between these traditions throughout the ages. The exhibition at the museum in Toronto runs until March 26, 2017.

Travelling from Canada and on display is the monumental work of artist Elias Zayat titled DELUGE- THE GODS ABANDON PALMYRA together with its thirteen case studies and they take the centre-stage at the exhibition hosted at the Ismaili Centre in Dubai. The mural with a height of 375 cm.  is a depiction of the Mesopotamian tale of Gilgamesh, which the artist has situated in Palmyra as a way to link Syria’s past, present and future: Palmyra is both an ancient city and a symbol of resistance in Syria’s current circumstances. The octogenarian artist Elias Zayat was present and signing his recently launched monograph at the opening event of Syria; A Living History. 

Amiruddin Thanawalla, President of the Ismaili Community in the UAE welcoming speech said: ''The Ismaili Centre Dubai aims to facilitate the promotion of cultural programmes that encourage mutual exchanges and understanding between diverse cultures and traditions'' He further stated, ''We are very proud to collaborate with like-minded partners, who also believe in hosting cultural programmes that broaden intellectual horizons and fostering an appreciation of pluralism''.

In his comments on the importance of Syrian history, Mr. Henry Kim Director and CEO of the Aga Khan Museum, Toronto said: “The importance of Syria’s contribution to world heritage has never been in doubt. Despite the destruction that has taken place in conflict zones, the spirit of the Syrian past can and will be restored, led by organizations such as UNESCO and the Aga Khan Trust for Culture which have played prominent roles in the restoration of monuments in Syria prior to the war”

Canada has shown tremendous support to Syria and its people. From hosting Syrian refugees to preserving historic masterpieces of Syrian art,…….This event comes as part of the celebration of Canada’s 150th anniversary of Confederation in Dubai which was launched by the Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau in January this year and led by His Excellency Emmanuel Kamarianakis, the Consul General of Canada in Dubai who commented on the strategic partnership between the Canadian Government and the Aga Khan Development Network and its institutions globally: “The Government of Canada and His Highness the Aga Khan have partnered in many ways including through the creation of the Global Centre for Pluralism which  addresses the challenges of how we can live together in diverse societies and the Agha Khan Museum which acts as a catalyst of mutual understanding and tolerance.” 

Atassi Foundation’s discussion with the Aga Khan museum started in March 2016 during the preparation for Syria: A Living History.   The result was a collaboration whereby Atassi Foundation loaned 7 modern and contemporary artworks from its collection to be showcased in the exhibition. On this event, Shireen Atassi Director of Atassi Foundation commented: “Today, and exactly a year after our first encounter with the Museum, we continue our dialogue; yet through the Ismaili Centre in Dubai.  We bring back from Toronto a piece that we are proud to have as part of our collection- Elias Zayat’s The Deluge: the Gods Abandon Palmyra- and we exhibit it on loan along with its studies in the magnificent Social Hall of the Centre.” She thanked the Ismaili Centre and the Aga Khan Museum saying: “Syria has been the center of the world attention of reasons that are unfitting. As a Foundation, it is our objective to put Syria in focus in celebration of its art and culture. We would like to thank Aga Khan Museum for repeatedly giving us the chance to do so.  We also thank the Ismaili Centre for opening its doors for us to host this incredible artwork”.