Islimi Arts: Islamic Arts & Heritage was established by Neelam Hussain with the aim of providing educational workshops, resources, lectures, and increasing public engagement with the arts and heritage of the Islamic world. In addition, we work in partnerships with other organisations with the aim to promote the wider benefits of the arts and culture sector amongst people of colour and minority ethnic groups, particularly those from Muslim communities, through activities that relate to their history, culture and identity.
Neelam has over 10 years of experience in education, arts and heritage sector; accompanied by a lifetime of interest in the field. Over the last 8 years, Neelam has worked with schools, students, researchers, community groups and artists alongside her academic research on the intellectual history of the Islamic world during the Middle Ages and its influence on our learning and language. During this time, she has taught at the University of Birmingham, where she also carried out research funded by the Arts & Humanities Research Council (AHRC) through the Midlands4Cities Doctoral Training Partnership. Midlands4Cities (M4C) brings together eight leading universities across the Midlands to support the professional and personal development of the next generation of arts and humanities doctoral researchers.
In 2015, Neelam founded The Islamic & Middle Eastern Studies (TIMES) Post-Graduate Forum. TIMES Forum is a platform to facilitate scholarly exchange amongst postgraduate and early career researchers from across the arts and humanities with an interest in research on Muslims and the Islamic and Middle Eastern world. This includes, but is not limited to, theology, philosophy, history, law, politics, literature, arts and culture. Neelam was the chair and programme coordinator of the TIMES Forum from its inception until 2019. She continues to serve in an advisory capacity to its Executive Committee.
Since 2016, Neelam has also been working as Curator of the Mingana Collection of Middle Eastern Manuscripts, at the University of Birmingham’s Cadbury Research Library (CRL). The Mingana Collection has over 3000 manuscripts in over 20 languages. This includes over 2000 Arabic manuscripts and a smaller collection of Persian and Turkish manuscripts and works of art. The Mingana Collection also contains the so-called ‘Birmingham Qur’an Manuscript,’ which was radiocarbon-dated as one of the earliest fragments of the Qur’an in the world.
In addition to her work on the Mingana Collection with students, researchers, schools, community and inter-faith groups, and artists, Neelam has worked on various projects and exhibitions on the Birmingham Qur’an Manuscript, both in the UK and at an international level: in the 2015 exhibition at the University of Birmingham; as one of the lead educators on CRL’s free Massive Open Online Course (MOOC) on the manuscript, which reached thousands of participants around the world; writing a book on Qur’an manuscripts and Islamic art (coming soon); and as part of the core team curating and delivering a series of exhibitions across the UAE, working with the British Council and the UAE Ministry of Culture & Knowledge as strategic partners. The exhibitions also involved the team liaising with schools, universities, artists and museums in the UAE. In 2018, Neelam curated the exhibition, ‘Mughal Miniatures: Power, Piety & Poetry. Most recently, she curated an exhibition on Mughal arts and courtly culture at the Barber Institute of Fine Arts (October 2018-February 2020), displaying material from Islimi Arts, Cadbury Research Library and the Barber Institute.
In response to Neelam’s engagement work with students at the University of Birmingham and the subsequent demand for more Islamic arts and heritage activities on campus, Neelam worked with students to set-up the Islamic Arts & Heritage Society (Tweets @uob_islamicarts / IG: islamicartsandheritage) at the university’s Guild of Students.
Neelam has presented both her academic research and her advocacy of increasing the engagement of minority groups and people of colour in the arts and culture sector, at national and international conferences. She has also published on this subject, with the aim to suggest ways to close the participation gap in the museum and heritage sector. In 2020, Neelam established the Museum of Islamic Arts & Heritage (MIAH) Foundation, which aims to promote wider engagement with the rich history, heritage, literature and arts of the Islamic world by bringing it to new and diverse audiences through workshops, online resources and pop-up events at schools or with education groups and in community settings. Its long-term aim is to establish a dedicated museum of Islamic arts and heritage in Birmingham. The project has been brought together by a group of researchers and heritage practitioners at the University of Birmingham and was set-up due to frustration with the lack of provision outside central London and the desire to create more authentic representations of the diversity and rich cultural legacy of Muslims and the Islamic world.
Islimi Arts provide history talks, object handling and art/practical workshops to schools, youth and community groups, and at public events. Islimi Arts workshops use genuine historical artefacts, artworks, as well as replicas, to discuss the history and contexts of objects to inspire the practical workshops in community settings.
We offer workshops in the following areas:
– Muslim contributions to our language and learning
– Arabic calligraphy inspired by manuscripts
– Geometric patterns in Islamic art and architecture
– Islimi / ‘Arabesque’ designs in manuscripts and
– History through the design of coins (choice of Umayyad, Abbasid, Maghribi, Crusader, Mughal, East India Company/British Colonial coins)
– Bookbinding and manuscript crafts and designs
– Mughal album pages
Please get in touch if you would like more details or booking information.