Islamic Art and Design

10 Islamic Art Activities in London 

10 Islamic Art Activities in London 

You might not associate London with Islamic art, but surprisingly there is a booming Islamic art scene in London. I love the art community in this city and there is always an event happening related to this art (and other types of art). If you are new in London you might not know some of these. I only knew about these places and activities a year after I moved London! That is why I am sharing

10 Islamic Art Related Activities in London that you might enjoy! 

Ps. This post is NOT sponsored! I just love these places, organisations and people! :D 

1- Visit the Jameel Gallery in the Victoria and Albert Museum

This is one of the most remarkable collections in London and no visit to London is complete without going into the Victoria and Albert Museum. The Islamic collection in the Jameel gallery space is my highlight. Additionally, it's free to go in, so don't miss the chance! 

2- Immerse yourself in patterns in Leighton House Museum

The Victorian artist Frederic, Lord Leighton (1830-1896) had a huge interest in Islamic art, very much so that he made an Arabian hall decorated with Islamic ceramics and calligraphy in his house that is now a museum that is open to the Public for an £8 entry fee. It's a small museum and will take you an hour maximum, but it's worth visiting. I would advice to go there during on of their free tour times or late Jazz nights just to make the most of your visit. 

Jameel Gallery in the Victoria and Albert Museum

3- Illuminate your trip with an Islamic Illumination Workshop

Islamic illumination is a specific type of Islamic art and usually means the use of gold in painting a traditional patterns. Illumination was used for Qurans and Islamic manuscripts. There are a few people around London that teaches this skill, but you can attend some of the regular Islamic Illumination workshops or organise a private session with Islamic Illumination that fits in with your London trip. 

4- Learn the secretes of Islamic Geometry

Just like the suggestion of the Islamic illumination workshop, you can learn more about the art and get close and personal with Islamic geometry that is the basis of most Islamic arts. You can do that by attending one of Samira Mian's regular and short geometry workshops or by booking a longer session with the Art of Islamic Pattern.    

Islamic Art Workshops

5- Bid on Islamic treasures in one of the Sotheby's open auctions

An Islamic art auction at Sotheby is not a usual occurrence, but it happened a few time since I moved to London. Usually the auctioned pieces are true treasures and are not really for the everyday user, but looking at them while they are getting auctioned can be a real treat. Sotheby is a famous art auction house, so there is always something going on. If you miss one about Islamic art you can try their other ones. 

6- Get as close as possible to Islamic manuscripts at the British Library

The British Library is the house to a big number of Persian, Turkish, Indian and Arabic manuscripts. If you make an appointment, you are welcome to go see a few and that is basically the closest you can be to such heritage. If you are a university student or doing research in the area, you get a quicker permission, but tweet them or email them for exact details on the process.  

Islamic Art in London

7- Awaken your mind with an Islamic art lecture

Many Islamic traditional artists have learnt their craft at the Prince's School of Traditional Art. It's a great institution. One of the amazing thing they do is their monthly lecture series about various art subjects and a lot of them are about Islamic art. By the way, the lectures are only during term times. SOAS university also has a lecture series related to Islamic art referred to as Islamic Art Circle Lectures

8- Explore Islamic art beyond the visuals

Although a lot of Islamic art is seen and appreciated visually, there are other types of Islamic art that speak to your other senses such the traditional music and theatre performances. They are not referred to as Islamic, but it comes from the same geographical regions, where Islamic art originated. It might be fun to attend some events that organised by Rich Mix Bagri Foundation and the Arab British Centre

contemporary art by Muslims in London

9- Get to know the contemporary art by Muslims

London does not only exhibit Islamic traditional art brilliantly, but it has contemporary art exhibition by Muslim and Arab artists. Stay up to date with Reconnecting Arts, Art Canteen and Shubbak Festival. They all have annual art events full of activities from art exhibitions to discussions and even concerts. 

10- Shop Islamic art in London

Since London is a city booming of all types of art, you can certainly buy Islamic art to take home with you. You can find Islamic items from Turkey and Morocco in the Camden market. Or you can buy from independent Islamic artists who are based in the UK such as Islamic Illumination,  Anita Chowdry, Jeea Mirza, and Islamic Art Gallery plus so many others that you can find on Instagram. 

Explore Islamic art beyond the visuals in London
1- Visit the Jameel Gallery in the Victoria and Albert Museum 2- Immerse yourself in patterns in Leighton House Museum 3- Illuminate your trip with an Islamic Illumination Workshop 4- Learn the secretes of Islamic Geometry 5- Bid on some Islamic treasures in one of the Sotheby's open auctions 6- Get as close as possible to Islamic manuscripts at the British Library 7- Awaken your mind with an Islamic art lecture 8- Explore Islamic art beyond the visuals 9- Get to know the contemporary art by Muslims 10- Shop Islamic art in London

Related Books: 

Arts & Crafts of the Islamic Lands: Principles Materials Practice
By Khaled Azzam, The Prince's School of Traditional Arts
Lonely Planet Pocket London (Travel Guide)
By Lonely Planet, Emilie Filou

Over to you: Which of these activities are you looking forward to the most?

Ps.Feel free to comment more Islamic art activities in London if you know any! 


Read More About London: 

Five Top Mosques To See In Istanbul

Istanbul has over 300 mosques. During my Istanbul Art Trip, I managed to visit five in the city. I was only in that part of town for a week before I ventured to the Asian side and saw the beautiful mosques of Uskudar

5- (Sultan Ahmet) Blue Mosque

This is one of the most obvious mosque options because it's right there in the centre. Prepare yourself to see masses of people 

4- Aya Sophia

The same crowdedness applies to this one too. It is really interesting to see the old Christian art along side the Islamic one. I felt that is what diversity is all about. 

3- Sokullu Sehit Mehmet Pasa Camii

This one is right in front of the Istanbul Design Centre, where I did my Istanbul Art course. I also lived facing it in a really cute little hotel called Oba Hotel. It was a very nice mosque. Peaceful and absolutely gorgeous inside. 

2- Rustum Pasa Camii

The tiles were interesting in this one. It's actually known for its Iznik tiles. There is a book stand in the courtyard that sells books about the tiles found in there. We had to walk through a very busy market to get to it. It was distracting to look at the market stalls, but we got there. We did a little drawing session there as well, which was really nice. 

1- Sulymania Camii -top pick-

Very grand and stunning inside and outside. I liked the view of Istanbul from there. If you don't have time to go to all five, I would recommend this one over the rest. 

Mosques of Uskudar

Uskudar is a quick ferry ride away from Istanbul. I wasn't even planning to go, but I happened to find myself in the area and I though it will be a shame not to discover the area. I did a quick google maps search on what's around and I followed the path. It was heavily raining when I was there last Fall, but I kept going. There was something nice about rain and mosque architecture. I was drenched, but life in London has prepared me to face any amount of rain. What I enjoyed the most was that I was the only tourist in that whole area. It was great to wander around picking the best angles and to sit around without interruptions. If you are a lover of Islamic Turkish architecture then make sure to include this little gem in your program. 

Ps. the word Camii is pronounced jami'e, which means mosque. 

The order of the photos is the same order I followed during my visit. 

Mihrimah Sultan Camii

This mosque was opposite to the harbour and easy to spot when you get off. "It was designed by Mimar Sinan and built between 1546 and 1548. It is a massive structure on a raised platform and already shows several hallmarks of Sinan's mature style" (Üsküdar Belediyesi, 2016). 

Uskudar Camii

I should have started with this one because that was even closer to the ferry drop off point. It's across the street from Mihrimah Sultan Camii. I met the nicest old man there who was so excited to tell me all about the place. It was SUPER tiny and the style is repeated, so you can skip this one if you are in a rush, but I liked it.  

Yeni Valide Camii (1700)

What struck me about this mosque were the dark coloured interior of red, black and green.  

Ps. Yeni means new and below you will see the older copy of this mosque.  

Aziz Mahmday Efendi Hazretleri Camii

My Islamic Illumination teacher Dilara Yarci told me about this one. Just hearing her talk about this little shrine made me want to come see it for myself. People come here with so many wishes and hopes and they ask Aziz Mahmday Efendi Hazret to ask God for those wishes as a medium because of his holy status, which is similar to saint like. I actually haven't heard of him before, but he is a big deal in the Turkish culture it seems. It is a really tiny place as well. I didn't actually go inside the mosque because I wanted to make it to the other ones before dark. 

Atik Valide Camii (1570)

Ps. Atik means old. 

I think this was my favourite mosque in Uskudar. I liked the spacious courtyard outside and the interior tiles and details. It was a trek getting there on foot. It was hilly. Actually the further I walked, the more hilly the town got. It might be easier to go there by taxi. I wanted to return by taxi after this one, but I could not find one and just had to walk back which was about 40mins from the harbour where I needed to be back. 

References: 

  • Üsküdar Belediyesi. (2016). Mihrimah Sultan Mosque. [online] Available at: https://www.uskudar.bel.tr/en/main/pages/mihrimah-sultan-mosque/315 [Accessed 12 Jun. 2016].