"In 1924 Claude Friese-Greene (cinematographer and son of moving-image pioneer William) embarked on an intrepid road trip from Land's End to John O'Groats. He recorded his journey on film, using an experimental colour process. Entitled The Open Road, this remarkable travelogue was conceived as a series of 26 short episodes, to be shown weekly at the cinema."
(Independent Cinema Office, UK)
"This week the minaret of one of Syria's most beautiful mosques was destroyed in the northern city of Aleppo. The Ummayad mosque established in 715 was rebuilt in 1159 after being damaged by a fire and then built again a century later after the Mongol invasion. The oldest surviving part was the minaret and both the State forces and the rebels accuse each other of its destruction. Lying in the Old City, the mosque is a Unesco world heritage site but has become part of the wider devastation of Syria's rich cultural heritage; a Crusader castle and Roman ruins in the ancient city of Palmyra have also been damaged.
However sad this physical destruction of history and art is, it should matter less to us than the recent reports that some 70,000 lives have been lost in this terrible civil war with hundreds of thousands more displaced. This is a war which is gradually ripping the country apart but about which the rest of the world doesn't seem to know what to do. Yet there is a different poignancy to the loss of a country's artistic and cultural past. It is these visual artifacts, building and ruins which speak to us of a country's history, its collective memory, the love and passion of the people who make a piece of land into a nation state. That so many Syrians are now killing each other and destroying ruins and religious sites poses the disturbing question, what exactly is still held sacred in so many part of the Muslim world?
A couple of weeks ago I returned from a short break to Istanbul. The area surrounding the majestic Hagia Sophia and the Blue mosque is also a Unesco world heritage site, tourists wander freely, the buildings stand sublime, the contested past of the place breathing its religious spirit into a refashioned, modern and vibrant city. But I wonder whether the preservation of history is only meaningful in countries where there is the preservation of peace, where people can enjoy the ordinariness of life, where there is order and purpose and we have the luxury of self reflection.
Earlier this week the former Met commissioner sir Ian Blair said societies choose what kind of violence they will tolerate. Looking across to so many part of the Islamic world where there is civil war, state violence and individual acts of terror, I wonder how and when Muslim societies will move away from seeing violence as a resolution to human conflict. When God is great is uttered as people and buildings are blown up what kind of God have so many created in their hearts and minds? The destruction of the minaret is not just a physical destruction but a tragic metaphor for a nation's soul."
(Mona Siddiqui, 26 April 2013, BBC Radio 4: Thought for the Day)
Fig.1 At left, the damaged Umayyad mosque in the northern city of Aleppo, Syria, on Wednesday 24 April 2013; at right, the view of the mosque with the minaret intact on 6 March 2013. (AP) [http://www.wbur.org/npr/178906558/minaret-of-iconic-syrian-mosque-destroyed-in-fighting].
"The history of Chinese bookbinding has always suffered owing to a lack of material evidence. The various book formats discovered among the Dunhuang document collection provide a wealth of information previously out of reach to scholars. However, this resource has remained relatively untapped, attention instead being focused on the textual content of the documents. Bookbinding is just one of many aspects to the study of the Dunhuang collection as physical artefacts. This site, by combining textual descriptions with diagrams illustrating binding techniques and photographs of the actual objects, aims to give a comprehensive introduction to the different kinds of Chinese bookbinding contained in the Dunhuang collection of the British Library."
(Colin Chinnery, 07 February 2007)
Fig.2 Stein's 1907 photograph of Tibetan pothi from the Dunhuang Library Cave. © 2007 The British Library, Photo 392/27(587) [http://idp.bl.uk/database/oo_scroll_h.a4d?uid=186402700912;bst=1;recnum=38614;index=1;img=1]
"We have long been familiar with the power of the Chinese to balance colours, but we were not so well acquainted with their power of treating purely ornamental or conventional forms ; and in the chapter in the Grammar of Ornament on Chinese Ornament I was led, from my then knowledge, to express the opinion that the Chinese had not the power of dealing with conventional ornamental form : but it now appears that there has been a period in which a School of Art existed in China of a very important kind. We are led to think that this art must in some way have had a foreign origin; it so nearly resembles in all its principles the art of the Mohammedan races, that we may presume it was derived from them. It would be no difficult task to take a work of ornament of this class, and, by simply varying the colouring and correcting the drawing, convert it into an Indian or Persian composition. There is of course, in all these works, something essentially Chinese in the mode of rendering the idea, but the original idea is evidently Mohammedan. The Moors of the present day decorate their pottery under the same instinct, and follow the same laws as the Chinese obeyed in their beautiful enamelled vases. The Moorish artist takes a rudely-fashioned pot or other object, and by a marvellous instinct divides the surface of the object, 'by spots of colour, into triangles of proportionate area, according to the form and size of the object; these triangles are then crossed by others."
(Owen Jones, 1867)
Owen Jones (1867). "Examples of Chinese Ornament Selected from Objects in the South Kensington Museum and Other Collections: By Owen Jones. One Hundred Plates", S. & T. Gilbert, 4 Copthall Buildings, E.C. Back of the Bank of England.
"The Reanimating Cultural Heritage project reintroduced these objects to both Sierra Leoneans and a wider audience, thereby creating a platform for future recovery of the Sierra Leone cultural heritage sector. The project, led by Dr Paul Basu, created an innovative digital heritage resource to provide digital access to the Sierra Leonean collections of the project's partner institutions (the British Museum, Brighton Museum and Art Gallery, Glasgow Museums, World Museum Liverpool, the British Library Sound Archive, and the Sierra Leone National Museum). The resulting www.sierraleoneheritage.org resource provides high quality images and enhanced information for over 3,500 Sierra Leonean objects from these museum collections.
Taking seemingly 'lifeless' museum objects, gathering dust in little-visited stores or displays, the project 'reanimated' them digitally by showing them alongside contextualising video, images, sounds and other media, 'reanimating' a traditional mask, for example, through video footage of a masquerade dance performance. The majority of the videos were made by Sierra Leoneans themselves, following participatory videomaking workshops. This ensured that a wide range of Sierra Leonean voices could be heard, from school children to weavers to religious leaders. Through integrating social networking technologies into the resource, visitors are able to comment and engage in dialogue about the objects and associated cultural practices."
(Arts & Humanities Research Council, 04/09/2012)