The Aga Khan Museum’s newest exhibition, Rumi: A Visual Journey Through the Life and Legacy of a Sufi Mystic, opens May 13 and is a glorious ode to one of the most revered poets and sufi mystics in history.
At some point or the other, we’ve all come across Rumi’s poetry on Instagram and other forms of social media. Excerpts of his soulful work have managed to make an impact on our generation despite being written centuries ago.
The exhibition at Aga Khan museum is a testament to why Rumi’s work still matters and the power of art to shape lives across time and space.
It doesn’t matter if you’re familiar with Rumi’s work or not, the experience of witnessing his life and legacy through this collection is an exhilarating and thought-provoking journey. Pieces in this show were gathered from across the world, including The Louvre in Paris.
I spoke to Michael Carter-Arlt, the Lead Developer and Project Manager of the exhibit, to understand why Rumi is still such an influential global figure today.
“I think Rumi remains relevant because we live in a world where forces way beyond any of our individual controls want to separate us and to divide us,” shared Cartier-Arlt.
“There are many ways that we can look around and see that happening all the time and Rumi’s message is really about how we can stay together.”
Curated to commemorate the 750th anniversary of Rumi’s passing, the exhibition is divided into three main parts – The Historical Rumi, The Visual Rumi and Rumi in Translation.
Each section offers relics, manuscripts and other objects of art that were a part of Rumi’s life and history at some point in time. The exhibition’s effort to present an authentic and intimate portrayal of Rumi’s illustrious life is phenomenal.
The show offers a deeply personal understanding of the poet’s inspirations, his ideologies and the sense of displacement he carried with him all his life.
Rumi’s early life was marked by frequent travel with his family for various reasons, which was often reflected in his poetry.
One of the most unique parts of the show is the work by contemporary artists who are inspired by Rumi.
Hangama Amiri, Simin Keramati, and Erdem Taşdelen present their installations in the exhibit which offer fresh interpretations of Rumi’s work.
Hangama Amiri, an Afghan-Canadian artist, who largely works with fabrics and textiles from countries like Afghanistan and Pakistan, aims to capture displacement, memory and notions of home through everyday objects.
Her installation Distance Between Homes is a philosophical examination of diaspora.
“Memory is imperfect, just like fabric,” Amiri said, which is why she enjoys the act of shaping fabric to capture the essence of fleeting experiences that leave lasting impressions.
Having moved around frequently in her life as well, Amiri’s work mirrors Rumi’s sense of displacement.
Her haunting pieces of art are a stand-out at the exhibition because of how exquisitely they are able to capture nostalgia and a sense of lingering sadness.
Multi-media artist, Simin Keramati’s interactive installation, The Elephant in the Dark, is a distinctive take on a poem of the same name by Rumi that highlights how important it is to prioritize different perspectives.
Keramati has had a life-long connection with Rumi’s work. “He’s always been there for us,” she said, recounting reading Rumi’s work and being inspired by it, throughout her childhood.
Keramati believes that Rumi’s imagination, his ideas and his delightful sense of humour is what makes him appeal to younger generations today.
Rumi: A Visual Journey Through the Life and Legacy of a Sufi Mystic runs until October 1st, 2023.
Whether you’re acquainted with Rumi or not, this heartfelt exhibition makes for an incredibly moving way to spend a few hours of your day.