Culture, Visual Arts

Bridge of knowledge

This is the 100th exhibition to be presented by the Brunei Gallery, SOAS that will be celebrating the remarkable centuries-old relationship between the West and the Arab and Islamic world.

In the present day many view the Arab and Islamic world and the Western world solely through contrast and difference where animosity is the over-riding connotation and the clash of two worlds is an image that often first springs to mind. However this exhibition sheds new light on the overly simplified view perpetuated by today’s media.

Viewers are reminded of a varied and rich past history where ideas were often exchanged and a rich knowledge transfer existed.  Proof of this relationship survives and is displayed through magnificent books, engravings, manuscripts and documents that will prove a revelation to many. Many do not realise that during medieval times Europe gained a vast amount of scientific and medical knowledge from the Islamic world who were ahead of their time.

Editions of many of the scientific texts from the Islamic world that influenced European thinking and learning are on display, including an illuminated edition of the medical compendium, the Canon by one of Islam’s greatest medical experts, Ibn Sina or Avicenna to the Western world.

Almost forgotten relationship

In addition to this, there is the chance to read and admire writings and art from Western travellers and artists venturing to the East eager to share their adventures, findings and discoveries. The influence of Arab literature and learning in European scholarship is also examined.

On the other hand the rise of the powerful Ottoman Empire and its advance towards central Europe and ultimately to the gates of Vienna is portrayed though documents, chronicles and illustrations of the time. As is the profound Arab influence in Spain, where they ruled in the South for over more than 700 years.

This exhibition offers a fascinating insight into the almost forgotten multi-faceted relationship the Western world and the Arab and Islamic world developed and created over centuries. It is open on the 13th of January until the 26th of March at the Brunei Gallery in Bloomsbury. For more information visit:


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