‘The Art of the Hajj’ Transports Us to Far-Away Places and Times

By 
D.W. Aossey


The Art of the Hajj
By Venetia Porter
Interlink Books, 2012

“The Art of the Hajj,” by Venetia Porter, is a small literary gem that richly captures the artistic aspect of the annual Muslim Pilgrimage to the holy sanctuary, or Kaba, in Mecca. With subject matter from the Middle Ages to the present day, the pictures are colorful and captivating. From renderings of the long and rugged journey to Mecca from far way places like Timbuktu and Nanjing, to the enormous, intricately-crafted tapestries and textiles used to cover the black, granite Kaba, the reader is transported to far-away places and times. In these various art forms, the faithful’s devotion to the religion of Islam and the pilgrimage of the Prophet can be felt in profound ways. The artistic detail and craftsmanship of compasses and directional finders from the 17th and 18th centuries and the finely woven calligraphy stitched into silk and canvas tapestries as large as buildings is astounding. Other interesting works include intricately decorated tiles, maps, and charts illustrating a fascination with the sea. A modern work of art, “Magnetism,” by Ahmed Mater, also captures the soul and the spirit of the Hajj depicting what first appears to be the distant black lines of the Kaba flanked by orbiting worshippers, but upon closer look becomes a magnetic cube surrounded by life-like throngs of metal filings. Truly the attraction of Mecca and the Hajj for the faithful is like a magnet pulling them closer, and “The Art of the Hajj” captures this important pillar of Islam in a fantastic journey that would be appreciated by all.

This article appeared in Al Jadid Magazine, Vol. 18, No. 66, 2012-'13.

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