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New exhibition “Dervishes: image and word” opened at the Peter the Great Museum of Anthropology and Ethnography (the Kunstkamera)

The opening ceremony of photography exhibition «“All the world's a glance of friend's face, all the rest's a shadow cast!” Dervishes: image and word» was held November 20th 2017. Within the framework of this event, three important research and cultural interconnected projects were also presented: the International Center for Islamic Studies, the Fund for the Development of Scientific and Cultural Projects “Al Makam” and the festival “Dairafest.

Guests were greeted with live oriental music that played in the hall on the 1st floor. The speeches of welcome were delivered to the guests and journalists by people who were involved in the event — the MAE RAS Director Andrey Golovnev; the Deputy director of the Museum, the author of the exhibition project and the Head of the International Center for Islamic Studies Efim Rezvan; the Head of the St. Petersburg Regional Information and Analytical Center of the Russian Institute for Strategic Studies Alexander Kolesnikov; the President of the Al Makam Foundation for the Development of Scientific and Cultural Initiatives Igor Pankov; the Deputy director of the State Museum of the History of Religion Ekaterina Teriukova.

Mr. Erol Ugurlu, the founder of the private center of Russian culture in Turkey and owner of the El Prado Art Picture Gallery (Ankara) presented to the Kunstkamera and the International Center for Islamic Studies two paintings on Sufi subject matter executed by contemporary Turkish artist Khalil AkkurtNawal, a wonderful singer from the Comoros, who belongs to the family of the most famous Sufi preacher in southwest Africa, not only congratulated the participants and guests on joint celebration, but also performed one of her most famous ballads. Nowadays Nawal is the key figure representing the musical culture of her homeland to the world.

Among guests of honour it is necessary to note Vice-consul of the Turkish Republic in St. Petersburg Ali Turan and Head of the Department of cultural and historical heritage of the Committee for Culture of the Government of St. Petersburg Julia Filippova.

Bright images of dervishes for a long time have attracted the attention of Europeans, who were seeking in the Eastern world both wisdom and exotics. Largely due to this interest to the Eastern traditions, an outstanding series of dervish portraits was created. This series belonged to the remarkable photographer Anton Sevryugin (1830—1933), who managed to “monopolize” the creation of the image of Persia for the outside world for quite a long period. A. Sevryugin, the son of a Russian diplomat, became a court photographer for the Qajar dynasty and the owner of one of the most successful photo studios in Tehran. A large collection of his photographs is stored in the funds of our Museum. They became the basis of the new exhibition project. The Russian poetry of different times, but dedicated to one hero — Dervish is an integral part of the exhibition. According to the exhibition authors the poetic lines are supposed to allow us to discern in the photos of dervishes dated by the end of 19th — beginning of 20th century something that often escapes from the visitor of the Museum, filled with a lot of new and unusual visual images.

Sufi teachings and practices have always played an important role in the spread of Islam all around the world. Sufi meditative practices easily included elements of local culture that greatly facilitated the perception of Islamic truths in the cultural environment that was originally alien to such traditions. This ritual is often accompanied with playing the musical instruments, singing, reciting fragments of the Qur’an, special rhythmic movements, whirling, prayer postures, control of breathing. Immersion in the sound and spiritual movement was one of the way to achieve ecstasy. That is why the Mevlevi sama‘ ceremony which symbolizes a mystical journey became the part of the new museum project.

The core event of the opening ceremony of the exhibition was undoubtedly the reconstruction of Sufi whirling (sama‘), which is considered to be one of the oldest ritual practices. In 2005 the Mevlevi sama‘ ceremony was declared a masterpiece of oral and intangible cultural heritage by UNESCO.

Another important element of the exhibition project is a mobile application which by use of augmented reality technologies allows every visitor of the museum to see on smart phone screen the reconstruction of Sufi whirling.

At the end of the event, Olga Martisova, the director of the St. Petersburg branch of the Interstate TV and Radio Company “Mir”, presented to the author of the publishing and media project “Turkestan” Efim Rezvan the congratulatory address and a commemorative medal created on the occasion of the 25th anniversary of the TV and radio company, as a token of gratitude for close cooperation.

Working group of the project “Dervishes: image and word”:

Maria Kolesnikova, Anna Kudryavtseva, Igor Pankov, Maria Rezvan, Efim Rezvan.

Augmented reality: Evgeny Mironenko.

Design: Irina Lepik.

"Dervishes: image and word"

The photo exhibition will be open to museum visitors until February 2018.

Kunstkamera, Round hall on the 1st floor

Mobile App “My World of Islam”


Instructions about the Mobile App: mov | mp4

Video with a live and virtual dervish from the opening ceremony. Cameraman: Evgeny Mironenko.

Extra materials for the report about the opening of the exhibition in the Kunstkamera

Performance by singer Nawal

Video operator: Tatyana Fedorova

Sufi whirling

Video operator: Tatyana Fedorova

Video report about the opening ceremony of the photography exhibition and the presentation of the International Center for Islamic Studies, the Fund for the Development of Scientific and Cultural Projects “Al-Makam” and the festival “Dairafest”

Cameraman: Dmitry Belyaev