The World of the Fatimids, an exhibition at the Aga Khan Museum in Toronto, Canada, presents a selection of rare artefacts never before seen together. The 87 objects were created between the 10th and 12th Centuries, when the Fatimids, an Islamic dynasty that founded Cairo and made the city its capital, exerted huge influence over craft and design.
The Fatimids were great patrons of the arts, funding a flowering of creativity, and encouraging an unparalleled pluralistic approach to culture. This religious and ethnic diversity is reflected in bronze wares and ceramics, marble, ivory and wood carvings, as well as in rock-crystal work.
Ulrike Al-Khamis, the museum's director of collections and public programmes, points out that it is this multi-cultural approach which marks out the objects as being Fatimid. "The confluence of different styles is easily traceable on individual artefacts," she says. "These include calligraphy combined with images of human beings and animals."
The objects provide an insight into the luxurious lifestyle of the Fatimid rulers. But not all artefacts were made for them, and the decoration of some of the pieces in expressive styles reflects the customer's interest – from Christian motifs to Greek animal fables, astronomical subjects, or references to ceremonial occasions.
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Video by Sylvia Smith
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