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 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, and a lifetime of interest in the field. Over the last 7 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 carries 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 on 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. 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. Most recently, Neelam curated the exhibition, ‘Mughal Miniatures: Power, Piety & Poetry,’ and most recently, curating another exhibition on Mughal arts and courtly culture in partnership with the Barber Institute of Fine Arts.
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 ethnic minorities 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.
As part of Islimi Arts, Neelam provides provides 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 and artworks to discuss the history and contexts of objects to inspire the practical workshops.
We offer workshops in the following areas:
– Muslim contributions to our language and learning
– Arabic calligraphy
– Geometric patterns
– Islimi / ‘Arabesque’ design
– History through the design of coins
– Islamic bookbinding designs