Hajj Paintings: Folk Art of the Great Pilgrimage

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Overview

Since the seventh century, the Hajj, or Great Pilgrimage to Mecca, has been a lifelong goal of devout Muslims throughout the world. Egyptian pilgrims traditionally celebrate their sacred journey by commissioning a local artist to depict their religious odyssey on the walls of their homes. Hajj Paintings is the first visual record of the richness and variety of this naive art form.

Photographer Ann Parker and writer Avon Neal spent a decade exploring towns, villages, and isolated...

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Overview

Since the seventh century, the Hajj, or Great Pilgrimage to Mecca, has been a lifelong goal of devout Muslims throughout the world. Egyptian pilgrims traditionally celebrate their sacred journey by commissioning a local artist to depict their religious odyssey on the walls of their homes. Hajj Paintings is the first visual record of the richness and variety of this naive art form.

Photographer Ann Parker and writer Avon Neal spent a decade exploring towns, villages, and isolated farm communities along the Nile, across the Delta, down the Red Sea coast, and into Sinai. On the walls of buildings ranging from alabaster factories to mud-brick farmhouses they found brilliant murals illuminated by the desert sun, portraying beloved icons of the pilgrims’ faith and scenes from the Qur’an. Their nearly 150 color photographs and accompanying descriptions record the radiant palette of the mostly self-taught artists.

Since the seventh century, the Hajj, or Great Pilgrimage to Mecca, has been a lifelong goal of devout Muslims worldwide. Egyptian Hajjis (or Hajjas, if female) traditionally celebrate their sacred journey by commissioning a local artist to depict their religious odyssey on the walls of their homes. This book provides a visual record of the richness and variety of this native form. 149 color photos.

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9789774162596
  • Publisher: American University in Cairo Press, The
  • Publication date: 3/1/2009
  • Pages: 192
  • Product dimensions: 11.30 (w) x 11.30 (h) x 0.90 (d)

Meet the Author

Ann Parker has produced over 50 one-woman exhibitions around the world. Her photographs can be found in major collections including the Museum of Modern Art in New York.

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  • Posted September 3, 2009

    Islamic religious folk art

    The color photographs (more than 100) bring to Westerners an aspect of Islam few know about, much less would ever get to see. The "hajj paintings" are a "rural art tradition" in small villages far from the usual tourist destinations. Such art is a Middle Eastern folk art done on the outside walls of villagers' adobe-like houses. So it would not be seen in museums nor sold in shops; and besides, the ones who had it done would not be likely to see it go.

    The hajj paintings have both religious and social significance. They signify to neighbors in the small villages that the one who commissioned them has made the hajj (pilgrimage) to Mecca in Saudi Arabia. This is a religious act all devout Muslims plan to make at least once in their lives. Because of common circumstances such a raising a family and especially for rural Muslims who would not have much money, the ones making the hajj are mostly older married couples with grown children who have had many years to save enough for the pilgrimage. Such older couples, particularly the men, acquire a more revered status in their communities after making the hajj. The paintings on their houses indicate they have done this. The paintings also have religious meaning in that they memorialize this important religious experience and like religious art of other faiths, are a means of showing reverence for Allah and Muslim beliefs.

    The hajj paintings of this work of religious art and cultural study are from villages in Egypt. Many of the paintings represent steps of the hajj from Egypt on the way to Mecca. As in most journeys, the steps along the way are as meaningful as arrival at the end. Experiences, scenes, and symbols relating to the cities of Mina, Medina, and Arafat are in some of the paintings. These cities can be stops depending on the route taken to Mecca and how extensive pilgrims wanted to make a hajj. The whole region of Saudi Arabia around Mecca has relevance for the founding of Islam.

    Other paintings, however, can have purely religious meaning in portraying or representing historical incidents of Islam or elements of its theology. Paintings of airplanes, boats, cars, and occasionally camels are reminders of the means of transportation. While others are personal in portraying individuals at one or more points in the hajj or seeing oneself as reflecting an aspect of Islam. In one, a butcher shows himself cutting up a piece of lamb with other pictorial elements indicating the scene is to bring to mind the Feast of the Sacrifice. The lengthy annotation points out "for practical reasons as well as religious sentiment, a painting will combine the hajji's occupation with his journey to Mecca...": in this case, having the painting serve as a sign for the man's occupation as well.

    Such paintings are done by members of the communities who are hajji house painters. They are amateur artists who are often schoolteachers, and they are respected members of the community for their trade tied in with the religion. As with other folk art, the Islamic religious folk art has the charm of the fusion of simplicity, the primitive, and guilelessness.

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