May 18 2018 Despite their cultural and ethnic diversity, North African countries have a common belief of Islam. Islam’s spread into northern Africa started after prophet Muhammad moved his followers from Mecca to Medina. During the 8 th and 9 th centuries, Arab travelers and traders began to spread Islam in the eastern part of Africa. Berbers, who were Pastoral North Africans, were the early converts to Islam, spreading it along the trade routes between North and West Africa. Then came the Sudanese merchants, followed by ‘the elites’ in Ghana and Mali. Once Islam became the ‘religion of the elites’ in West Africa, kings who were trying to expand their territories to largely non-Muslim populations blended Islam with their traditional religions, thus seeming less foreign. In the 11 th century, a group of Berber nomads who were followers of Islam led the Almoravid intervention, which sped up the conversion process. 1 Islamic art refers to the art and architecture historically created in lands ruled by Muslims, for Muslim patrons or produced by Muslim artists. Due to Islam’s long history, Islamic Arts was influenced by various styles throughout its development. Although, it has “basic identifying and unifying characteristics.” 2 These include, calligraphy, vegetal patterns, geometric patterns and figural representation. In regions surrounding the Sahara, marriage is viewed as the ideal adult state. This is often true for all Muslim societies. Therefore, the garments reflect the new social status of the bride and the groom. Furthermore, the Islamic designs on 1 (Department of the Arts of Africa, Oceania, and the Americas) 2 (Department of Islamic Art.)
May 18 2018 the garments are supposed to make the transition from unmarried life to married life smoother, in addition to guarding against hurtful spiritual and physical forces. These patterns are often believed to protect from harm, and evil; and cause good luck, fertility and health. 3 One symbol, known as the Evil Eye, encompasses the whole Mediterranean area in addition to Africa. The Evil eye is a phenomenon linked to the notion of fear and envy. 4 The Evil Eye is described as “the first covetous glance cast by one person on something belonging to another, the warnings in the Qur’an to beware of envious person fostered this existing fear inextricably to Islam.” 5 It is believed that the placement of objects and pattern may also attract or repel the evil eye. The envious gaze can also be reflected back through the use of mirrors. Sharp objects such as knives or cloak pins, in addition to reflective accessories such as mirrors sequins, buttons or the bead of the Evil Eye are used to repel the Evil Eye. 6 These motifs that make the patterning of the garments spiritually significant, are believed to bring health, fertility and wealth.
- Fall '18
- Islam, British Museum, Evil eye