JE.151The Museum of Islamic Art (MIA) announces the opening of its newest special exhibition Kings & Pawns: Board Games from India to Spain, which explores the origins of some of the world’s most beloved board games, and their journey across the Islamic world between the seventh and twentieth centuries.

The exhibition opens to the public on 19 March 2014, and showcases an array of game pieces, boards, manuscripts and other historical objects associated with board games. In doing this, Kings & Pawns aims to share the history and significance of these games and the societies that created, adopted and adapted them. More than mere pastimes, games such as chess, backgammon, pachisi (ludo) and gyan chaupar (snakes and ladders) have also created intercultural connections. MIA invites visitors to examine the ways in which these games have changed over the centuries, how they have symbolised war, provided mental stimulation or even helped to explain religious principles.

Curated by William Greenwood, Curator for Central Islamic Lands at MIA, Kings & Pawns is a feast for the eyes and is as stimulating as a good game of chess. From the bold forms of carved rock crystal chess pieces, dice made of gold and diamonds, to backgammon boards made of delicately inlaid wood and ivory, every piece in the exhibition is a masterpiece in its own right. HE Sheikha Al Mayassa bint Hamad Al Thani, Chairperson of Qatar Museums Authority (QMA), said:

Each object is as remarkable for its historical significance as for its aesthetic appeal, and supports the Museum of Islamic Art’s core value of exploring our shared past to illuminate our shared future.’

The range of objects representing an historical spread of more than a millennium and pieces from as far apart as India to Spain will encourage visitors to look carefully and consider the central role of board games in everyday life.

Beyond the historical and artistic focus, a further aim of Kings & Pawns is to allow people to rediscover these complex games of strategy and chance, inspiring them to look afresh at apparently old-fashioned pastimes in an era of electronic diversions. As MIA Director Aisha Al Khater said:

Hopefully, this exhibition will encourage visitors to discover, or re-discover, the pleasure of these games, both ancient and modern.’

IV.5Kings & Pawns runs until 21 June 2014 in the special exhibition gallery on MIA’s ground floor. The collection of objects on display are from MIA and other Qatari institutions, supplemented by pieces generously provided by lenders from as far as New York, London, Moscow and Madrid. Visitors also have an opportunity to learn more about these objects and the themes of the exhibition through a commemorative catalogue available at the MIA Gift Shop.

There is also an exciting line-up of activities for visitors of all ages, with events ranging from ‘live’ chess performances and art workshops to film screenings and behind-the-scenes tours. A lecture series featuring visiting scholars, computer programmers and the exhibition curator takes place throughout the course of the exhibition. A premiere screening of Kings and Queens of Qatar, a documentary about the Qatar National Chess teams competing at the World Chess Olympiad in 2012 directed by Shamir Allibhai, is to be held on 26 March 2014.

Entrance to Kings & Pawns is free of charge.

For museum hours and more information, visit MIA’s website.