Universes in Universe

For an optimal view of our website, please rotate your tablet horizontally.

Créations artistiques contemporaines en pays d’islam. Des arts en tensions

Créations artistiques contemporaines en pays d’islam. Ed.: Jocelyne Dakhlia. Review.
By Sandrine Wymann | Feb 2007

Contemporary Artistic Creations in Islamic countries. Arts under tension

The collected texts of this volume were written on the occasion of debates and meetings with students, researchers, artists, and authors. It is at the initiative of Jocelyne Dakhlia [1] that these specialists got together between 2000 and 2003.

In a time when the aptitude of the Islamic world to modernity has never so much been put into question, Jocelyne Dakhlia shows us, through a precise panorama made up of multiple points of view, the new and increasing role played by contemporary creation in precisely that same world.

In order to understand this phenomenon, Jocelyne Dakhlia introduces the study by defining the territory of her subject. For a start, she distinguishes the Islamic from the Muslim world, thereby laying down the necessary distance between Islam as culture, history, and civilisation, and Islam as religion alone. This said, neither in geographical nor in cultural terms does there exist a clear definition of the Islamic world. At the most, Dakhlia proposes an Islamic cultural context, to which she also counts Africa and the men and women from the Diaspora. Even this entity, however, she sees as artificial, since a unified Islamic world is just as non-existent as a unified “Occident”.

Indeed, the concern of the book is not to provide an exhaustive census of Islamic countries or artists who refer to them. Far more, this compendium is looking at all the flourishing contemporary productions of Islamic culture. What is produced? How is the acceptance? Thus, the entire span of creative realms is addressed and analysed: cinema, literature, dance, visual arts, and urbanism.

It is a new feature that from cinema to dance, music to the visual arts, today’s artists cross over their countries’ frontiers, entrusted with the role of making us believe that only art “can constitute the grounds of a 'reconciliation' with Islam, as if it were finally the place for conflicts to be defused, emptied of substance…”

Iolanda Pensa analyses the presence of art from the “Islamic” world through the multiplication of biennales. This study attracts our attention to the fact that there is today an African Biennale for every discipline: Ouagadougou for cinema, Bamako for photography, Antananarivo for dance, Dakar for the visual arts… These important get-togethers of a dimension as much political as it is artistic ensure unquestioned visibility and actuality for artistic creation from this region of the world.

This volume compiles very different scopes of input. Some articles relate to broader issues such as the contribution by Sylvie Naef under the title "Entre mondialisation du champ artistique et recherche identitaire: les arts plastiques contemporains dans la Méditerranée orientale" (Between globalisation of the artistic field and search for identity: contemporary visual arts in the Eastern Mediterranean). Others are more precise reports from close studies, or related to personal, even intimate experiences. The juxtaposition of this ensemble of approaches constitutes a tool for understanding the situation of contemporary creation in Islamic countries. One may criticize the uneven quality in the reproductions of some of the works, but on the background of a multitude of analyses by means of themes such as woman, religious fundamentalism or immigration, this volume shows us another actuality of the Islamic world: that of the contemporaneity of its arts.



  1. Jocelyne Dakhlia: Historian, co-director of Annales, research director at the EHESS, Paris. Specialist for historical anthropology in the Maghreb and Mediterranean Islam. Author of numerous publications, among others: Divan des Rois, Le politique et le religieux dans l’Islam (Paris, Aubier, 1998); L’Empire des passions (Paris, Aubier, 2005); Islamicités (Paris, PUF - Coll. Sociologie d’aujourd’hui, 2005).

Sandrine Wymann

Independent curator. Until 2005, responsible for the visual arts program at the Institut Français in Casablanca. Currently in charge of projects at Editions hors'champs (Morocco/France).

(From the French: Helen Adkins)

Head: Jocelyne Dakhlia
J.-Ch. Depaule, A. Devictor, G. Ladkany, S. Leprun, H. Miliani, S. Naef

Éditions Kimé
Paris 2006
672 pages, numerous illustrations
French; some articles in English
38 Euro
ISBN : 2-84174-402-7

Éditions Kimé

2, Impasse des Peintres
Website Email

Back to Top