INTERNATIONAL CONGRESS ON ISLAMIC ARTS AND CRAFTS, 2002

International Congress on Islamic Arts and Crafts, organised by IRCICA and the Ministry of Culture and Islamic Guidance/Organisation of Culture and Islamic Relations, Islamic Republic of Iran, in Isfahan, Islamic Republic of Iran, 4-9 October 2002.

IRCICA and the Ministry of Culture and Islamic Guidance/Organisation of Culture and Islamic Relations, Islamic Republic of Iran, have jointly organized the International Congress on Islamic Arts and Crafts, in Isfahan, on 4-9 October 2002. The congress tried to highlight Islamic culture through its arts and crafts by pointing out their beauty and value. In addition, it suggested ways and means to create favorable conditions for artists and crafts people, conditions which are critical in encouraging them to continue their skills and to transfer them to the next generations. It is essential both for the preservation and the continuity of the cultural heritage of the Islamic world. The congress deliberated on the challenges relating to design and methods used, technical cooperation and developing skills, exchange of techniques practiced, improvement of the quality of production, education and training of skilled artisans, financing, economy, marketing and the obstacles encountered, patronage and national policies. The congress aimed to promote and assist the creation of an awareness of Islamic arts and crafts in the world. It provided a unique opportunity for raising interesting new approaches and possible solutions to some of the major problems facing the future of Islamic arts and crafts development. The event tried as much as possible to assess and determine the prospects of economic, social and cultural development of Islamic arts and crafts in various regions.

75 research papers were presented constituting a survey of the present state of Islamic arts and crafts. The participants came from the following countries: Afghanistan, Algeria, Azerbaijan, Bangladesh, Egypt, England, France, Germany, India, Indonesia, Italy, Japan, Jordan, Kazakhstan, Kuwait, Lebanon, Malaysia, Morocco, Netherlands, Oman, Pakistan, Palestine, Qatar, Russia, Saudi Arabia, Senegal, Syria, Tatarstan, Tunisia, Turkey, Uzbekistan, Venezuela and the host country, Iran. Most of the participants were scholars of history of art, experts, specialists, academicians, policy-makers, planners, arts administrators, artisans, and representatives from universities and institutions concerned with Islamic arts and crafts.

The program started on 4 October by the address of H.E. Sheikh Mohamad Iraqi, Chairman of the Organization of Culture and Islamic Relations inaugurating the exhibition of the artisans at Chehel Sotun Palace in Isfahan. Later, the participants, headed by H.E. Minister of Culture and Islamic Guidance of Iran Mr. Ahmad Masjed Jamee, H.E. Dr. Abdelouahed Belkéziz, Secretary General of OIC, Prof. Dr. Ekmeleddin İhsanoğlu, Director General of IRCICA, H.E. Sheikh Mohamad Iraqi, Chairman of the Organization of Culture and Islamic Relations, inaugurated the exhibition which constituted pieces of excellence made by artisans from various countries. The group then was followed by a colorful parade of hundreds of students carrying the flags of the participating countries and the slogan of the congress entitled: folkloric performances for “revival and preservation of Islamic traditional heritage''. Delegations, participants and nearly 30,000 Isfahani moved with the parade from Chehel Sotun to Naghsh-e Jahan Square - the Imam Square.

The opening ceremony of the congress heard the address of H.E. Mr. Ahmad Masjed Jamee, Minister of Culture and Islamic Guidance. He pointed out the importance of this congress in these days as an opportunity for further cooperation among the concerned authorities and institutions working in the field of Islamic arts and crafts. He called for more cooperation among artisans through the establishment of a union of artisans, of a City Museum of Isfahan, and the allocation of an Iranian Award for the master artisans in the Muslim world.

H.E. dr. Abdelouahed Belkéziz, Secretary General of OIC, delivered an address, in which he pointed out that it was a secret to no one that arts, handicrafts and traditional industries, to borrow the expression used in certain countries, reflected the degree of civilization and social level reached by a given human society. He added that IRCICA, set up by the OIC, had done a great work over the past decades in unveiling such a heritage and exerted a gigantic and sustained effort to salvage the said heritage. As a result, IRCICA has become an authority, a reference to many researchers and historians. He concluded with emphasis that the congress shall come out with a strategy responding positively to the new aspirations, along with the possible solutions of the major problems facing the future of the drive to develop Islamic arts and handicrafts.

Prof. Dr. Ekmeleddin İhsanoğlu, Director General of IRCICA took the floor and expressed his gratitude for the Ministry of Culture and Islamic Guidance, Iran and to the Organization of Culture and Islamic Relations for having Isfahan as the host of the congress. He pointed out that it was significant to underline that OIC was the first international organization to formally recognize the importance of arts as a field of cooperation for development and as a factor contributing to international solidarity. He added that it was a source of pride for IRCICA to be the OIC's subsidiary, in charge of this important field of study, and to be the first and only intergovernmental organization of the world to have arts as one of its principal fields. He also pointed out that IRCICA was known in the world's interested circles as a focal point of Islamic arts, while its craft development program was enhanced jointly with concerned ministries in OIC Member States and with international institutions. He emphasized that the congress would contribute to the promotion of understanding among cultures and that the holding of the congress in Isfahan had a special importance and meaning -promoting dialogue between civilizations.

Finally, H.E. Engineer Mr. Huseini, the Governor of Isfahan, welcomed the participants on behalf of Isfahan city. He said that Isfahan, the city of arts was welcoming the scholars and specialists of arts and crafts and would provide every facility to ensure the successful implementation of this event. He also welcomed the proposal of having a City Museum of Isfahan for Islamic arts and crafts.

At the opening of the sessions of the congress, Nazeih Taleb Maarouf, International coordinator of the congress and Head of the Crafts Development Program, IRCICA, introduced the scholars and delegates. He gave background information on the preparation of the event and mentioned that he was impressed with the overall quality of papers presented by the scholars from various places of the world. He added that the proceedings of the congress would lead to more cooperation among the participating delegations and enhance further development in the sector. Mr. Hassan Aminian, the local coordinator of the congress, Chairman of International Organization, Organization of Culture and Islamic Relations, pointed out in his address that Iran was proud to host the congress and that Isfahan city was shining with the presence of scholars and experts from different places of the world. He added that the ministry of culture and Islamic guidance worked jointly with IRCICA through the organization of culture and Islamic relations in order to guarantee the successful implementation of this event.

The topics of the sessions, taken up in fourteen sessions, were: Islamic architecture, art of calligraphy, arts and the cultural dialogue, Islamic paintings and miniature, Influence of Islamic arts and crafts on European art, traditional textiles, embroidery and costumes, revival of Islamic arts and crafts, Islamic tiles and ceramics, city life, jewellery and Islamic bazaars, papermaking, gilding, binding, and marbling (ebru), wooden arts and crafts, present state and promotion of crafts, marketing, development and patronage, Islamic patterns and metal crafts.

The congress made recommendations on the following subjects: Dialogue among cultures, Revival of Islamic arts and crafts, Restoration and preservation of our architectural heritage, Training in the field of skills qualification, National campaigns for the 'rehabilitation' of cultural values and the foundation of a 'memory bank', Government and patronage, Education, Isfahan City-Museum, Quality control, Economical aspects and regional network of cooperation, Role of the media.

At the closing ceremony, the report of the congress was presented by Nazeih Taleb Maarouf. He also gave the address of IRCICA and emphasized that IRCICA will continue giving emphasis to the development of crafts in the Member States. He pointed out the importance of the congress in collecting, through the in-depth deliberations, valuable data about the present state of the sector in OIC Member States.
Mr. Hassan Aminian, the local coordinator of the congress presented the Isfahan International Declaration issued by the congress. He also presented the address of the Organization of Culture and Islamic Relations pointing out that Isfahan was honoured and delighted to host this important gathering as it was considered as an open museum of rich cultural heritage.

H.E. Engineer Mr. Jawadi, Chairman, Isfahan Municipality stated that Isfahan city shall always feel proud of hosting scholars, academicians, experts and artisans from various places of the world. He commended all the activities of what he called a festival of Islamic arts and crafts and in particular he talked about the success of the parade and the exhibitions which were attended by thousands of Isfahani people.

H.E. Engineer Mr. Huseini, the Governor of Isfahan took the floor expressing his pleasure for seeing Isfahan the city of arts and cultural heritage as the hosting venue of this important event. He expressed his gratitude to the participants for proposing the concept of establishing a city museum of Isfahan and said that all efforts shall be extended towards realizing this project.