Registrations have closed. The AGSA short course program will return in 2020.

For on-the-day enquiries: call the Information Desk on 8 8207 7075 between 10am-4.30pm

This short course, commencing 21 September over four consecutive Saturdays, explores the ways in which the faith of Islam has inspired artists over the centuries.

Catering to individuals with little or no prior knowledge of Islam or its aesthetics, this course considers the ways in which religion has defined the historical identity of art across the Muslim world.

James Bennett, curator of the Gallery’s current exhibition No god but God: Art of Islam, will facilitate the four sessions of the short course with a program that includes the following national and international scholars in the field of Islamic art.

Art and Islam is presented by curators and scholars, both Muslim and non-Muslim, from diverse cultural backgrounds. The course references the Gallery’s display No god but God: Art of Islam, as well as national and international collections.

Members enjoy 50% discount on registration.


Week 1: Saturday 21 September

The Ka’ba in Mecca.

The Ka’ba is Islam’s holiest of sites and the direction of prayer for more than 1.5 billion Muslims. Muslims argue that it is the first house of God built on Earth, constructed first by Abraham and his son, Ismail, and reconstructed few times afterwards. Every year, more than 2 million Muslims perform the hajj, and circumambulate the Ka’ba day and night. In this presentation, Professor Abdalla will present an Islamic account of the Ka’ba, describing its religious and architectural significance.

Presenter: Professor Mohammad Abdalla is the Founding-Director of the Centre for Islamic Thought and Education (CITE) at the University of South Australia.

Safavid Persia: a golden era of Islamic art

It was during the brilliant Safavid era (1501–1722) that modern Iran was born. The period witnessed an astonishing florescence in all fields of art production while Isfahan, the capital for much of the time, remains one of the most dazzling and perfectly preserved cities of the Islamic world. As well as exploring some of the many architectural treasures still to be seen in Isfahan, this talk will also consider the various changes in Islamic artistic traditions that took place under Safavid rule.

Presenter: Dr John Tidmarsh is an archaeologist who has conducted excavations in Syria, Jordan, Greece, and Cyprus. He is currently Co-Director of the University of Sydney excavations at Pella in Jordan and also Co-Director of the Australian Mission to Jebel Khalid, Syria.

Week 2: Saturday 28 September

Art and the Sacred Today

How can we think of the sacred, whether in Islam or in other religions, in a post-modern and post-secular society? Can the sacred be divorced from, or thought of outside, religion without losing its efficacy and inviolability and being transformed into something else? And how does the sacred manifest itself through works of art?

Presenter: Samer Akkach is Professor of architectural history and theory and Founding Director of the Centre for Asian and Middle Eastern Architecture (CAMEA) at the University of Adelaide

Religious orthodoxy or environmental disaster? : Finding the cause for the absence of figurative motifs in the Islamic textiles of Lombok.

The influence of environmental change on art and culture is becoming an increasingly relevant topic for today. The lecture examines the catastrophic eruption of Mount Tambora in Indonesia in 1815 and its effects on the textile practices of the neighbouring island of Lombok. While many commentators attribute the absence of figurative depictions in the island’s Sasak textiles to Islamic orthodoxy, there is increasing evidence to alternatively suggest it was the volcanic cataclysm that dramatically altered the island’s Muslim textile traditions.

Presenter: Dr Muchammadun is assistant professor in Community Development Studies in the Department of Islamic Community Development, State Islamic University of Mataram, Indonesia.

Week 3: Saturday 5 October

Figurative Arts in Islam: Controversies from Past to Present

This presentation focuses on the controversies on figurative arts in the Islamic tradition. It explores historical forms of iconophobia, and various recent acts of vandalism that are motivated by modern political ideologies.

Presenter: Dr Aydogan Kars completed his undergraduate and graduate study in Ankara, Turkey, before earning a PhD in Religion at Vanderbilt University, USA.

Visual Representations of the Mughal Hunting Landscape

India’s artistic depiction of the Mughal hunting ground was cloaked in layers of meanings that reflected the Muslim court’s ideological concerns. The talk aims to show the Mughal artist’s ways of seeing this constructed landscape: how spaces are represented, actors are staged, and political messages are communicated. Through a recurrent use of visual metaphors, painterly techniques, artistic tools, and visual interpretations the artist was able to set up an active gazing relationship with his viewers in order to communicate Mughal power enmeshed in the hunting paradigm.

Presenter: Dr Shaha Parpia completed her PhD at the Centre for Asian and Middle Eastern Studies (CAMEA) at the University of Adelaide and is an independent scholar based in Singapore.

Week 4: Saturday 12 October

The Beggar’s Bowl: From Mobility to Monumental Metaphors

This talk explores the possible interpretations of the appearance of the beggar’s bowl, an attribute of the wandering beggar-mystic, as an architectural motif in Isfahan, Iran. Looking first into the history of the beggar’s bowl as an object, the talk will focus on the prayer niche of Isfahan’s Sheykh Lutfullah mosque to open the discussion to metaphors of wine and drinking vessels, boats and journeys across the seas, the place of light in mosque imagery, and debates about the definitions of good and bad mystics in seventeenth-century Isfahan in relation to the beggar’s bowl.

Presenter: Dr Peyvand Firouzeh holds degrees in History of Art and Architecture, and Asian and Middle Eastern Studies from the Tehran University of Art in Iran and the University of Cambridge, and has recently commenced as Lecturer in Islamic Art at the University of Sydney.

Jinn: The spirit world in the Islamic art of Java

Javanese people sometimes observe that the air of the island is ‘thick with spirits’ and this lecture examines the ways in which historical and contemporary Javanese art depicts the denizens of the unseen realms, notably the jinn of Muslim cosmology. The lecture places these depictions in the context of the imagery of Javanese shadow characters whose origins date back to the pre-Islamic period of Hindu-Buddhist belief in Indonesia.

Presenter: James Bennett is Curator of Asian Art at the Art Gallery of South Australia and has curated the current exhibition No god but God: The art of Islam on display at the Art Gallery.