Islamic Museum of Australia
For over 12 years now, I’ve been delivering education sessions on ‘Understanding Islam’ to school groups studying world faiths. Many schools request an excursion, or an interactive Islamic experience.
With no dedicated facility, the school excursion would be to whichever mosque was suitably located or agreeable. This indeed led to a number of very memorable interactive Islamic experiences for these students! One time, nearly two hundred high school students descended upon a mosque during funeral prayers, much to the chagrin of mourning worshippers. Then there was the tour where a local Imam stole the show and exhorted the non-Muslim school girls to promise they would never have a boyfriend and never eat pork. And who could forget the spectacle of 50 school kids who travelled from the country to be locked out on the mosque doorstep in the rain; or the lingering aroma wafting from the shoe racks? But most memorable of all was the collective gasp of 100 elite private schoolgirls as a brother in itikaaf emerged unawares from the bathroom, wrapped only in a towel!!
I think you get the idea. Fast-forward to 6th March 2014 … I am conducting the first official school tour at the Islamic Museum of Australia. A group of Year 11 & 12’s studying Islam within the VCE subject ‘Religion & Society’, have arrived from Mornington, over an hour away. Many of them have never spoken to a Muslim in their life. They enter the state of the art building designed by Desypher architects, in absolute awe of the unique melding of Middle Eastern and Australian design techniques. The laser cut steel façade allowing multiple beams of light to stream into the foyer forming a stunning visual effect.
Exterior IMA (Image courtesy IMA)
Exterior – Corten façade IMA (Image courtesy IMA)
I then take them to the Faith gallery where they see Quran video art, the Hajj theatre movie and a film where inspiring Muslim women such as Tasneem Chopra, Saara Sabbagh and many more share their stories. We move into the Islamic Civilization gallery to discover amazing facts about Arabic numerals, soap, coffee, astronomy, literature and so much more.
Islamic Faith Gallery at IMA (Image courtesy IMA)
Then onto the Islamic Art gallery to see award-winning classic and contemporary Islamic art, mostly by Australian Muslim Artists. This includes spoken word and other video art. We pass through the visiting exhibit, ‘Mush’, by Blake prize winner Khalid Sabsabi, and it’s time for lunch.
My young charges are surprised to see they are being served by none other than Samira, who they recognize from TV as a top 3 finalist from Masterchef 2013. Poor Samira juggles falafel, fresh juices, coffee and desserts while graciously posing for photos with her new BFFs!
Refreshed for part 2, we continue upstairs through the exquisite architecture gallery, where students enter a minaret to activate the sound of the azaan in both Arabic and English recited by Yusuf Islam. The final gallery covers Australian Muslim History, and the students are intrigued by stories of the Afghan cameleers and today’s Muslim achievers.
The tour concludes. So enthralled by their tour, the group is keen to book another visit next term! I still can’t believe how blessed I am to be a part of this unique institution, which is the first of its kind in Australia. I also can’t believe I survived conducting tours for 12 years without it!
The Islamic Museum of Australia (IMA) is now taking bookings for school groups for students in Years 4-12 who wish to learn more about Islamic art, faith and culture. Interactive tours for school and other groups provide a fascinating insight into Australian Muslim life, Art, History & Civilisation. The content presented in the IMA is closely aligned to the Australian National Curriculum ensuring an educational experience that is both relevant and meaningful.
Education kits have been prepared by registered teachers with many years of experience in Australian schools supported by an expert advisory committee. The IMA has currently commissioned an educational online resource covering the Australian Muslim History and content from the museum’s various displays. This valuable resource will be accessible to teachers across Australia.
School Tours take approximately 90 minutes. Presentations on specific topics of interest can be arranged with prior notice. Schools have the option of booking an Art & Craft workshop within the tour, which adds an extra 40 minutes. Conducted by an Islamic Art instructor in the dedicated IMA Art room, students can try calligraphy or mosaic and take their artwork home.
The IMA’s Modern Middle Eastern Café, run by Samira from Masterchef 2013 serves tasty light meals and refreshments.
FOR FURTHER DETAILS, BOOKINGS AND ENQUIRIES, VISIT THE IMA WEBSITE www.islamicmuseum.org.au
Theatrette @ IMA (Image courtesy IMA)
Director of the Islamic Museum of Australia