Last week, I passed by Amricani Cultural Center (ACC) to view Dar al-Athar al-Islamiyyah’s (DAI) latest exhibition—‘Long Ago Zoo: Animals in The al-Sabah Collection’. The exhibition, which opened on 21 October, 2014 to an enthusiastic crowd, is touted as ‘a first of its kind in the Middle East and one of the few presented globally’.
Consisting of 114 objects from the prestigious al-Sabah Collection, the exhibition covers the full geography and chronology of the Islamic world and has the distinction of being curated, designed and executed exclusively by children between the ages of 6 and 12, literally. Children were given full freedom to create the exhibition that would appeal to other children.
The inaugural event was attended by H.E. Sheikh Salman Sabah Salem al-Sabah, Minister of Information and the Minister of State for Youth Affairs, who in his remarks praised both the children involved in creating the exhibition and the DAI for continuing to further cultural awareness in the community.
“This exceptional exhibition, the first of its kind in the Gulf region and the Middle East, was created by children, who were instrumental in every aspect of preparing Long Ago Zoo. This demonstrates what the DAI has made a priority since its inception three decades ago: engaging with children through publications and activities,” said the Minister. “Today we witness the opening of an exhibition that begins a dialogue guided by the perspective of children. We also are reminded of the brilliant work of Ibn Muqaffa’, the magnificent scholarship of Muslim thinkers, and the role of the DAI and Kuwait in promoting the artistry of our civilization.”
Sheikha Hussah Sabah Salem al-Sabah, co-owner of The al-Sabah Collection and DAI director general, followed H.E. the Minister, thanking him for his kind words and on-going support for DAI activities. “It is not unusual for people my age to think ‘I wish I was younger’. Today that feeling is particularly strong, as I envy the opportunity these young people have had. They spent the last eight months doing everything that needs to be done to open an exhibition. They planned and discussed, but most important, they dreamed, imagined and created.”
The exhibits are well organized: chronologically with not only dates and origin of the displayed item mentioned, but also little notes of ‘what the children thought about the object’. There are many intriguing objects on display that have surprising survived the test of time. Some are ‘as new as’ 300 years old, while others are over a 1000 years. According to the DAI Children Art Workshop (CAW), chief curators of the exhibition, Animals were chosen by vote, winning over Science, because ‘it is easier for the younger kids to understands and visualize’. I realized the children had displayed an admirable eye for detail, which when coupled with this whimsical and straightforward narrative, makes this exhibition worth visiting.
LAZ exhibition will run at ACC until 30 April, 2015. Museum hours are from 10am-7pm, Monday–Thursday and 2-7pm, Fridays & Saturdays. Closed on Sundays.
Report by Shabana H. Shaikh
Images courtesy Amricani Cultural Centre