Cromwell Gardens No.1, South Kensington, London SW7, is an address which every Ismaili recognises and is proud of, for that is the site of the Ismaili Centre London.
What is perhaps not known quite as well is that a large area of the ground and the lower ground floors of the Ismaili Centre is occupied by the ZAMANA GALLERY with its entrance directly opposite the Victoria and Albert Museum.
The Gallery, founded by Mowlana Hazar Imam in 1985, is dedicated to the arts and architecture of the non-Western world, with an emphasis on Islamic cultures. In addition to providing exhibition space, the Gallery functions as a cultural centre where lectures, seminars and educational programmes are organised. Facilities include a specialised bookshop which also stocks periodicals, posters and slides on architecture, arts and crafts of several of the Asian and African countries.
The mission of the Gallery, in the words of its Chief Patron, Mowlana Hazar Imam is "to try to improve understanding in the West of the arts and cultures of the Third World, and to do this not simply in terms of historical achievements but in the present day context of their evolution." As such, the Gallery is for public benefit, and given its excellent location, attracts the local British population as well as visitors from other parts of the world.
The name chosen for the Gallery is consistent with its identity. "Zamana" means "the age" or "the epoch," suggesting contemporaneity. It is a word commonly used in Urdu and Hindi, as well as in Arabic, Persian and Turkish as "saman."
The latest in a series of exhibitions since the inception of the Zamana Gallery was "Centuries of Gold," an exhibition of the Coinage of Medieval Islam, a collection of rare and historic coins, many of which have been on show before.
The exhibition was opened by Begum Salimah.
"The Zamana Gallery has begun fulfilling the mission for which it was conceived," Begum Salimah told a distinguished gathering at the Gallery's fourth exhibition which she opened on 2nd July 1986. Begum Salimah said: "In opening the first exhibition, my husband stated that the reason for his founding the Zamana Gallery was to try to improve understanding in the West of the Arts and Cultures of Asia, the Middle East and Africa."
"In the short span of a year, the gallery has presented three excellent exhibitions, one photographic, one on architecture and one of paintings," Begum Saheba told the guests who included the Mayor and Mayoress of Kensington and Chelsea, Abdel Wahed El-Wakil, and representatives from the Commonwealth Institute, Victoria and Albert Museum, Imperial College, foreign Embassies and the Supreme, National and Grants Councils.
The present exhibition, Centuries of Gold - the Coinage of Medieval Islam, was "meant to take the viewer back in time, a millennium or more, to the world of medieval Islam, a world vibrant with the energy and vitality of a young civilisation," Begum Saheba said.
The 1986/87 exhibition programme introduces Istanbul - Gateway to Splendour' a look at the architectural heritage of the city that spans Asia and Africa. The programme also includes an exhibition of childrens' paintings from a selection of 42 Islamic countries; a rare view of Mamluk illuminations (1250-1517) drawn from worldwide collections; and finally, at the end of 1987, New Art From Western Nigeria', an exciting selection of contemporary textiles, paintings, jewellery and sculptures from the workshops of lfe & Oshogbo. All these exhibitions are carefully co-ordinated with a series of lectures, dance, music and theatrical events. Exhibitions held at the gallery occasionally travel to other cities around the world.
The Zamana Gallery is in the process of earning its place in the rich spectrum of British cultural life. Though dedicated to improving the understanding of Third World cultures in the West, its activities are no less exciting and stimulating to the people from Third World countries, even if they are already knowledgeable about Islam and its cultural heritage. The Zamana Gallery has to be a must' on the itinerary of all visitors to Britain, no matter what country they come from.
Source: Africa Ismaili
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