Initially I was accepted to study Fine Art at the University of Cape Town’s Michaelis Art School. I switched to a general BA at the last minute because I couldn’t imagine my life without studying Theatre. Choice is a sad thing sometimes. I still made an effort to do shorter History of Art courses and research because I really missed sinking my teeth into it.
I was never one for Islamic Art to be honest, I can read Arabic scripture but I’m unable to understand the meaning, and mostly in the Islamic art I was exposed to in textbooks and a bit at the British Museum that’s all one would see. I am ashamed to say I was a bit desensitised to it at first. My eye and mind is so trained to appreciate traditional European aesthetics or seek the rebellion in the lack-thereof, so I didn’t know what to look for. However, from intricately carved oak doors with unexplainable detail, silk cloaks weighing about 20kgs, marble works, pottery, sculpture and hundreds of astrolabes, I could appreciate the variety and leave behind the stereotype I was unaware I held so absent-mindedly.
The main thing I could conclude was that the work was in a league of its own. Very particular craftmanship and lavish material didn’t aim to replicate life but rather celebrated it. I could really appreciate that.