To mark the Qatar-Indonesia 2023 Year of Culture, Qatar Museums is featuring some of the hidden treasures from Indonesia housed within its renowned collections and museums.

According to Aisha Ghanem Al Attiya, Director of Cultural Diplomacy for Qatar Museums, the beautiful artefacts and poignant photographs on display at the Museum of Islamic Art (MIA) and the Lusail Museum highlight the deep connection between Indonesia and Qatari culture.

We share so much in terms of religious heritage and appreciation for history with an eye towards the future. I am excited for the people of Qatar to learn more about this beautiful country through the stories told by these pieces.

Indonesian Ambassador to Qatar, HE Ridwan Hassan said that Indonesia is the first Southeast Asian country to partner with the Years of Culture initiative, which is a testament to the two countries’ historic connection and growing cooperation across many sectors. This year will be a colourful celebration of what can happen when two cultures come together. The ambassador said he can’t wait for the people of Qatar and Indonesia to see it come to life.

A palepai – also known as a ship cloth – is a large, rectangular ceremonial textile with representations of blue or red ships.

MIA collection

Following a recent facilities enhancement project and the reimagination and reinstallation of its permanent collection galleries, MIA introduced exciting new galleries dedicated to Southeast Asia, a subject not typically presented in an Islamic art museum. The galleries remind visitors that the region today is home to the largest Muslim community worldwide. Indonesian gold jewellery and textiles are among the objects on view.

The galleries also highlight the connection between different cultures through exhibits on the trade of commodities and the exchange of ideas across the Islamic World and beyond.

MIA Deputy Director of Curatorial Affairs Shaika Nasser Al-Nassr explained that they tell the story of the spread of Islam around the world and its influence on art and culture at MIA. He said that the new MIA makes that story complete with the addition of galleries in the Indian Ocean region and Southeast Asia.

Qatar Museums collection

Describing the stories told through turn-of-the-century photographs of pilgrims from Indonesia to Mecca, which are part of the general Qatar Museums collection, as well as scenes of the modern daily life of Muslims in Java and Jakarta, Curator of Photographs Dr Giles Hudson, said that these powerful images capture the spread and impact of Islam throughout the world and how it influenced the way people interact to this day.

Indonesian pilgrims

Fascinating history

The photographs of pilgrims were taken by Christiaan Snouck Hurgronje, a famous Dutch ethnographer, who was one of the first Europeans to visit and the first to photograph Mecca. He published his photos of the architecture and people of Mecca in 1888 as Bilderatlas zu Mekka (Photo-atlas of Mecca).

The Bilderatalas contains over a dozen photographic plates of pilgrims from Indonesia. These were taken in the garden of the Dutch consulate in Jeddah, which pilgrims from Indonesia passed through during a period when their country was still under Dutch colonial rule. The pilgrims are from diverse Muslim communities from all over Indonesia, including Sumatra, Java, Sulawesi, Kalimantan, the Moluccas, including Ambon.

Qatar-Indonesia 2023 Year of Culture

The full-year programme for Qatar-Indonesia 2023 Year of Culture will feature a host of performances, exhibitions, sporting and culinary events, photography projects, residency and volunteer programmes, and more. Inaugurated in 2012, the Years of Culture initiative is an annual bilateral exchange that deepens the understanding between Qatar and another nation and its people through a year of cultural programming.

In a special focus this year and based on Qatar’s experience in developing its creative economy, the Qatar-Indonesia 2023 Year of Culture will put an emphasis on projects that will enhance the creative industries in both countries, with a focus on sustainable, long-term partnerships.

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