Tuesday, September 12, 2006

Thing of Beauty: Visual Dhikr - contemporary Muslim art

Visual Dhikr is a prayer answered. Just when I was wondering if I could ever find a very decent graphic designer who hopefully was adept at Islamic calligraphy, along came Visual Dhikr.

Visual Dhikr features contemporary Islamic art by Ruh al-Alam, and was co-found by Ruh and Abu Ta-Ha.

Dhikr is a spiritual term meaning remembrance of God.... a continued, attentive, conscious remembrance. Visual Dhikr uses artwork as a medium to stimulate a continued remembrance of the Divine.

The artists do more than just Islamic artwork, but all work is within the very unique parameters that faith describes for artistic expression. Islamic art is often geometric and floral, representing concepts of infinity, Divine beauty, and peace.

Visual Dhikr awed me for several reasons:

1. It's so politically misplaced! In this day, one has to be daring to put the Islamic identity first unless one is on a preaching mission. For two artists to wear Islam on their sleeves is an amusing exception to the norm - where contemporary art in the Muslim world is pre-dominated by culture either local or imported. To wed digital media with art with Islam is a marriage of great un-convention.

2. It works. There are no error scripts, no wildly outdated links.

3. To create a visual tradition of remembrance amongst traditions of primarily auditory dhikr is an interesting experiment. It's always been done - after all Islam is submission to Allah and the constant remembrance of Hu - but I have rarely seen a modern Muslim artist in the West make this a declared mission.

Be: a calligraphic rendition of the Arabic letter Be4. The site has an astounding background musical that just about induces trance. So the art is not just visual, but also musical. It touches many senses. I must say that to have a uniquely modern, Muslim experience is a rarity that I have loved.

5. Visual Dhikr extends my identity as a Muslim in the cyber-space, and in the space of arts. You see, I believe every identity in the modern real world needs a platform, a place of reference, an authentication. Everyday, we see - though perhaps not notice with awareness - instances upon instances of people and nations who are perfectly correct in their belief, but without a reference group, a platform, a social contract that validates them.

Art has long been employed by humanity to create identities, to create culture, to create an image that one can refer to and declare: "I am something of that thing!"

Sadly, art has often imposed the identities of one or few onto many - the lone man or group projecting onto the world, a romanticized notion in all art. The art of this new age is one that reflects the global society, and its diversity. One that gives the members of humanity points of reference, which lets them say: "That thing is something of who we are!"

The only taboo in art today is its alienation and elitism... In the modern world, technology has begun to work for the disadvantaged. Today, an artist of any culture or background can use technology to perpetuate and make de facto through art their identity.

This is why I loved Visual Dhikr in all its simplicity. I like the promise this art makes.

BTW. Did I tell you that Visual Dhikr was commissioned to work for Sony PSP Exhibition launch? And the catalog is a must download!



  1. Unbelievable stuff!!!
    ive sent links to loads of friends! great site gurl!!

  2. Thats very well written, you captured the essense of what we're trying to do so well.

    Ruh, Visual Dhikr