All photos by Chantelle D’mello
Walking the line between fantasy and reality, the new Qatar Museums exhibition Marvelous Creatures: Animal Fables in Islamic Art, opened this week with a colorful display of manuscripts, carpets, gilded pottery, jewelry, glassware, folios and other artifacts.
Set in a maze at the Museum of Islamic Art, the exhibition is divided into four quadrants signifying the elements – air, earth, fire, and water. Each segment features pieces from the 10th to 19th centuries, and focuses on a specific color scheme and story.
Curated by Dr. Leslee Michelsen, the head of curatorial and research at the MIA, the exhibition is free and open to the public and runs until July 11.
Marvelous creatures draws on the elements to tell stories using paintings, sculptures and sound. There are added interactive elements like makeshift theaters in each quadrant, in which visitors can learn more about historical fables that Arabs used to share wisdom and advice.
The stories are drawn from the 2,000-year-old Kalila wa Dimna, and The Thousand and One Nights in looped audio books emanating from illuminated walls.
Walls are also peppered with explanatory writings, and illustrations and motifs in the styles and colors of the various elements.
Elsewhere, a velvet-lined black-box theater in another quadrant plays animated retellings of stories from Shahnameh – a 60,000-verse long epic poem written by the Persian poet Ferdowsi, and other tales on the four elements, in a continuous loop.
An activity section featuring stuffed mannequins of dragons, phoenixes, and unicorns, among other fabled creatures, hosts a seating area and an arts and crafts station for children.
The MIA will also hold weekly family walk-in art workshops with a marvelous creatures theme every Saturday, starting tomorrow, March 7, and running until June 13. The workshops will be held from 3 to 5pm at the Atrium, along with a host of lectures, tours, and talks. A full schedule of events can be viewed online here.