Week 6: The Art, Architecture, Symbolism and Décor of Mosques

Week 4 Response

During week six of class, we had discussed three types of mosque designs, including the arabesque, calligraphic, and geometric designs, and how these styles can be combined in various shapes and forms in mosque architecture (Necipoglu 62, 222). I had been particularly fascinated by the photos we had see in class of the Mihrab, specifically of one that we had seen that was black and white (Lecture 3.1.16; Frishmann & Khan 33). As the Mihrab is such a key component of prayer within the mosque, I decided to create my own artistic piece of a portion of a black and white Mihrab. I created this piece using sketchpad paper and a black pen and sharpie. In the image, I tried to utilize both the arabesque and geometric designs (Necipoglu 62). As Muslims view God as “the light of the heavens and the earth,” the white portions of this design represent where God manifests his light in the Mihrab (Renard 7).

In her piece, Necipoglu argues that in order to understand Islamic art, individuals need to employ a semiotic framework and thereby take context into account (Necipoglu 83). The repetition of the various arabesque and geometric designs and its many layers represent the different communities of interpretation that are present within the religious tradition (Daftery 163). In the Frishmann and Khan piece, Graber mentions that the local community affects the design of mosques (Frishmann & Khan 245). Subsequently, depending on the local context, the black and white could represent the interaction between yin and yang. In other words, I would imagine such a white and black colored Mihrab in a mosque in China, where the mosque architecture adapts to the local belief in yin and yang.

To conclude, this artistic response represents the unifying principle that is involved in all Islamic art despite all of the variations you find within different communities of interpretations or within different local contexts (Nasr 3). Perhaps Nasr states what I am trying to express with my artistic response with greater clarity, “Islamic art is the result of the manifestation of Unity upon the plane of multiplicity” (Nasr 7).

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