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“Popular Islam in South Asian Visual Culture,” lecture by renowned filmmaker Yousuf Saeed

Monday, April 22, 2019 - 12:30pm

Foster 103

Among the vibrant examples of public art found in Indian towns and villages, the most popular are religious posters and calendars depicting deities, saints, and places of worship. Besides iconography of Hindu deities, a large number of Islamic posters portraying the shrines at Mecca and Medina, or the Quranic verses in calligraphy are also available, besides the portraits of local Sufi saints, their tombs, miracles, and other folklore, represented as vividly as in a Hindu mythological scene. Unhindered depiction of Sufi portraits in this popular culture often disrupts the stereotype of Islam’s image of iconoclasm and reveals the sentiments of popular Muslim piety. These popular portraits and media also help attract the devotees to their shrines, despite the fact that such hybrid culture is increasingly frowned upon by many Muslims affected by the puritanical Wahhabi ideology. Interestingly, Muslim artists or publishers do not necessarily produce all these Islamic images – the industry doesn’t distinguish between the identities of producers and consumers of these images, and continues to remain largely syncretic. This presentation features examples of popular visuality and rituals associated with Sufis and their shrines through images and videos. Short documentary films, Basant (12 mins), Sufi Sama (12 mins) and Jannat ki Rail (7 mins) will be shown in the presentation.

About presenter: Yousuf Saeed is a Delhi-based independent filmmaker and writer, currently managing the Tasveer Ghar archive of popular art. Having worked at organizations like the Times of India and Encyclopedia Britannica, Yousuf has produced TV programmes (like Turning Point on Doordarshan) and documentary films like Basant, Khayal Darpan, Jannat ki Rail, Khusrau Darya Prem ka, and Campus Rising, besides writing in the Times of India, Marg, and other periodicals. He has researched on and documented south Asia’s popular Islamic art and heritage, authoring a richly illustrated volume Muslim Devotional Art in India (Routledge, 2018) and a small visual catalogue South Asia’s Islamic Popular Art (2019).

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Monday, April 22, 2019 – 12:30pm
Foster 103