Saturday, April 16, 2016

Visual Cultures Forum: Dialogue through Religious Arts The Case of Syrian Aleppo Icons

In the latest Visual Cultures Forum hosted by the Department of Visual Communication, Assistant Professor of Middle Eastern Studies Dr. Pamela Chrabieh was invited to give a lecture entitled “Dialogue through Religious Arts: the Case of Syrian Aleppo Icons.”

Aleppo (Halab) rhymes nowadays with war or Syria’s Stalingrad. However, this city continuously inhabited since the 6th millennium B.C.E. located at the end of the Silk Road has a rich religious and cultural history. It was home to numerous museums, considered as one of the main centers of Arabic traditional and classical music, and was famous for its cuisine as well as its architecture that included many styles, from the Canaanite to the Roman, Byzantine, Seljuq, Mamluk and Ottoman.

Aleppo rose to high prominence in the Ottoman era, specifically in the 17th-18th century when it witnessed the proliferation of Christian iconography with the Al-Moussawiroun family of iconographers, offering distinctive styles and features - in particular iconographer Ne’meh Al-Moussawir who developed the Aleppo style.

In my first book ‘Icons of Lebanon’ published in Canada in 2003, I identified the following characteristics of the Aleppo style at two levels – the form and the content: 1) Localization/Contextualization and personalization: icons are not only written for eternity as prescribed by the traditional Byzantine theology of icon, but constitute the products of specific times, places, communities and individuals. The local Christian theology of icon is a discourse about God that is not separated from the context, from one’s history and culture, from immanent problems, nor from the self. Writing an icon becomes an individual process involving a personal faith experience along with that of the community. 2) Intercultural and Interreligious dialogue: icons are the products of the iconographer in dialogue with others, the expressions of one’s faith in dialogue with other faiths, of one’s cultural identity in dialogue with others. Icons as embodied dialogue, created in a dialogic environment, and offering a platform of dialogue,” explained Chrabieh.

The influence of the Aleppo style lasted until the late 18th century with an astonishing continuity and abundance in Southwestern Asia. However, the elaborate ornamentation found in Ne’meh’s icons gave way to simpler decoration by the 2nd half of the 19th century and icons were no longer only commissioned by religious institutions or rich donors.

With the discovery, restoration and analysis of these icons and many others, a valuable addition has been made to art history (especially the history of local religious arts) and sciences of religions. Also, the study of these icons has definitely provided new insights into the lives of the local Christian communities, and into the relations between different religious, cultural and ethnic communities. New insights help us as scholars understand in a better way the current situation, social-political systems, worldviews and practices. Past and present are linked, with continuities and discontinuities. The further we dig in the past, the better we are able to deconstruct misconceptions, the better we are able to contribute to the enhancement of our social-political diversity management systems. Furthermore, as I see it, these icons’ message is of peace, a message of hope in a troubled time marked by the use of religious identities as means of rallying support for violence. Iconographers such as Ne’meh Al-Moussawir are peace agents, and just like many contemporary Syrian and Southwestern Asian artists, Ne’meh shows us that art’s major function, including religious art, is or should be to educate to and to inspire a culture of peace, not a culture of ghettos, exclusivism and conflictual identities,” she concluded.  - See more at: http://www.aud.edu/news_events/en/view/1216/current_upcoming/visual-cultures-forum-dialogue-through-religious-arts#sthash.Emf3ZGkA.dpuf
Dr. Pamela Chrabieh






In the latest Visual Cultures Forum hosted by the Department of Visual Communication, Assistant Professor of Middle Eastern Studies Dr. Pamela Chrabieh was invited to give a lecture entitled “Dialogue through Religious Arts: the Case of Syrian Aleppo Icons.”

Aleppo (Halab) rhymes nowadays with war or Syria’s Stalingrad. However, this city continuously inhabited since the 6th millennium B.C.E. located at the end of the Silk Road has a rich religious and cultural history. It was home to numerous museums, considered as one of the main centers of Arabic traditional and classical music, and was famous for its cuisine as well as its architecture that included many styles, from the Canaanite to the Roman, Byzantine, Seljuq, Mamluk and Ottoman.

Aleppo rose to high prominence in the Ottoman era, specifically in the 17th-18th century when it witnessed the proliferation of Christian iconography with the Al-Moussawiroun family of iconographers, offering distinctive styles and features - in particular iconographer Ne’meh Al-Moussawir who developed the Aleppo style.

In my first book ‘Icons of Lebanon’ published in Canada in 2003, I identified the following characteristics of the Aleppo style at two levels – the form and the content: 1) Localization/Contextualization and personalization: icons are not only written for eternity as prescribed by the traditional Byzantine theology of icon, but constitute the products of specific times, places, communities and individuals. The local Christian theology of icon is a discourse about God that is not separated from the context, from one’s history and culture, from immanent problems, nor from the self. Writing an icon becomes an individual process involving a personal faith experience along with that of the community. 2) Intercultural and Interreligious dialogue: icons are the products of the iconographer in dialogue with others, the expressions of one’s faith in dialogue with other faiths, of one’s cultural identity in dialogue with others. Icons as embodied dialogue, created in a dialogic environment, and offering a platform of dialogue,” explained Chrabieh.

The influence of the Aleppo style lasted until the late 18th century with an astonishing continuity and abundance in Southwestern Asia. However, the elaborate ornamentation found in Ne’meh’s icons gave way to simpler decoration by the 2nd half of the 19th century and icons were no longer only commissioned by religious institutions or rich donors.

With the discovery, restoration and analysis of these icons and many others, a valuable addition has been made to art history (especially the history of local religious arts) and sciences of religions. Also, the study of these icons has definitely provided new insights into the lives of the local Christian communities, and into the relations between different religious, cultural and ethnic communities. New insights help us as scholars understand in a better way the current situation, social-political systems, worldviews and practices. Past and present are linked, with continuities and discontinuities. The further we dig in the past, the better we are able to deconstruct misconceptions, the better we are able to contribute to the enhancement of our social-political diversity management systems. Furthermore, as I see it, these icons’ message is of peace, a message of hope in a troubled time marked by the use of religious identities as means of rallying support for violence. Iconographers such as Ne’meh Al-Moussawir are peace agents, and just like many contemporary Syrian and Southwestern Asian artists, Ne’meh shows us that art’s major function, including religious art, is or should be to educate to and to inspire a culture of peace, not a culture of ghettos, exclusivism and conflictual identities,” she concluded. 
In the latest Visual Cultures Forum hosted by the Department of Visual Communication, Assistant Professor of Middle Eastern Studies Dr. Pamela Chrabieh was invited to give a lecture entitled “Dialogue through Religious Arts: the Case of Syrian Aleppo Icons.”

Aleppo (Halab) rhymes nowadays with war or Syria’s Stalingrad. However, this city continuously inhabited since the 6th millennium B.C.E. located at the end of the Silk Road has a rich religious and cultural history. It was home to numerous museums, considered as one of the main centers of Arabic traditional and classical music, and was famous for its cuisine as well as its architecture that included many styles, from the Canaanite to the Roman, Byzantine, Seljuq, Mamluk and Ottoman.

Aleppo rose to high prominence in the Ottoman era, specifically in the 17th-18th century when it witnessed the proliferation of Christian iconography with the Al-Moussawiroun family of iconographers, offering distinctive styles and features - in particular iconographer Ne’meh Al-Moussawir who developed the Aleppo style.

In my first book ‘Icons of Lebanon’ published in Canada in 2003, I identified the following characteristics of the Aleppo style at two levels – the form and the content: 1) Localization/Contextualization and personalization: icons are not only written for eternity as prescribed by the traditional Byzantine theology of icon, but constitute the products of specific times, places, communities and individuals. The local Christian theology of icon is a discourse about God that is not separated from the context, from one’s history and culture, from immanent problems, nor from the self. Writing an icon becomes an individual process involving a personal faith experience along with that of the community. 2) Intercultural and Interreligious dialogue: icons are the products of the iconographer in dialogue with others, the expressions of one’s faith in dialogue with other faiths, of one’s cultural identity in dialogue with others. Icons as embodied dialogue, created in a dialogic environment, and offering a platform of dialogue,” explained Chrabieh.

The influence of the Aleppo style lasted until the late 18th century with an astonishing continuity and abundance in Southwestern Asia. However, the elaborate ornamentation found in Ne’meh’s icons gave way to simpler decoration by the 2nd half of the 19th century and icons were no longer only commissioned by religious institutions or rich donors.

With the discovery, restoration and analysis of these icons and many others, a valuable addition has been made to art history (especially the history of local religious arts) and sciences of religions. Also, the study of these icons has definitely provided new insights into the lives of the local Christian communities, and into the relations between different religious, cultural and ethnic communities. New insights help us as scholars understand in a better way the current situation, social-political systems, worldviews and practices. Past and present are linked, with continuities and discontinuities. The further we dig in the past, the better we are able to deconstruct misconceptions, the better we are able to contribute to the enhancement of our social-political diversity management systems. Furthermore, as I see it, these icons’ message is of peace, a message of hope in a troubled time marked by the use of religious identities as means of rallying support for violence. Iconographers such as Ne’meh Al-Moussawir are peace agents, and just like many contemporary Syrian and Southwestern Asian artists, Ne’meh shows us that art’s major function, including religious art, is or should be to educate to and to inspire a culture of peace, not a culture of ghettos, exclusivism and conflictual identities,” she concluded.  - See more at: http://www.aud.edu/news_events/en/view/1216/current_upcoming/visual-cultures-forum-dialogue-through-religious-arts#sthash.Emf3ZGkA.dpuf
In the latest Visual Cultures Forum hosted by the Department of Visual Communication, Assistant Professor of Middle Eastern Studies Dr. Pamela Chrabieh was invited to give a lecture entitled “Dialogue through Religious Arts: the Case of Syrian Aleppo Icons.”

Aleppo (Halab) rhymes nowadays with war or Syria’s Stalingrad. However, this city continuously inhabited since the 6th millennium B.C.E. located at the end of the Silk Road has a rich religious and cultural history. It was home to numerous museums, considered as one of the main centers of Arabic traditional and classical music, and was famous for its cuisine as well as its architecture that included many styles, from the Canaanite to the Roman, Byzantine, Seljuq, Mamluk and Ottoman.

Aleppo rose to high prominence in the Ottoman era, specifically in the 17th-18th century when it witnessed the proliferation of Christian iconography with the Al-Moussawiroun family of iconographers, offering distinctive styles and features - in particular iconographer Ne’meh Al-Moussawir who developed the Aleppo style.

In my first book ‘Icons of Lebanon’ published in Canada in 2003, I identified the following characteristics of the Aleppo style at two levels – the form and the content: 1) Localization/Contextualization and personalization: icons are not only written for eternity as prescribed by the traditional Byzantine theology of icon, but constitute the products of specific times, places, communities and individuals. The local Christian theology of icon is a discourse about God that is not separated from the context, from one’s history and culture, from immanent problems, nor from the self. Writing an icon becomes an individual process involving a personal faith experience along with that of the community. 2) Intercultural and Interreligious dialogue: icons are the products of the iconographer in dialogue with others, the expressions of one’s faith in dialogue with other faiths, of one’s cultural identity in dialogue with others. Icons as embodied dialogue, created in a dialogic environment, and offering a platform of dialogue,” explained Chrabieh.

The influence of the Aleppo style lasted until the late 18th century with an astonishing continuity and abundance in Southwestern Asia. However, the elaborate ornamentation found in Ne’meh’s icons gave way to simpler decoration by the 2nd half of the 19th century and icons were no longer only commissioned by religious institutions or rich donors.

With the discovery, restoration and analysis of these icons and many others, a valuable addition has been made to art history (especially the history of local religious arts) and sciences of religions. Also, the study of these icons has definitely provided new insights into the lives of the local Christian communities, and into the relations between different religious, cultural and ethnic communities. New insights help us as scholars understand in a better way the current situation, social-political systems, worldviews and practices. Past and present are linked, with continuities and discontinuities. The further we dig in the past, the better we are able to deconstruct misconceptions, the better we are able to contribute to the enhancement of our social-political diversity management systems. Furthermore, as I see it, these icons’ message is of peace, a message of hope in a troubled time marked by the use of religious identities as means of rallying support for violence. Iconographers such as Ne’meh Al-Moussawir are peace agents, and just like many contemporary Syrian and Southwestern Asian artists, Ne’meh shows us that art’s major function, including religious art, is or should be to educate to and to inspire a culture of peace, not a culture of ghettos, exclusivism and conflictual identities,” she concluded.  - See more at: http://www.aud.edu/news_events/en/view/1216/current_upcoming/visual-cultures-forum-dialogue-through-religious-arts#sthash.Emf3ZGkA.dpuf

See more at: http://www.aud.edu/news_events/en/view/1216/current_upcoming/visual-cultures-forum-dialogue-through-religious-arts#sthash.Emf3ZGkA.dpuf (AMERICAN UNIVERSITY IN DUBAI)