January Events at the RAS

In the last two weeks the RAS has hosted three very different events. The first, on Tuesday 19th January, was part of the Fresh Perspectives Series of Lectures. Frederica Gigante of The Warburg Institute and SOAS spoke to us on “Collecting Islamic art in seventeenth century Italy: Ferdinando Cospi, the Medici Court and the Ottoman world”.

Frederica Gigante
Frederica Gigante

Her talk particularly focused on the eclectic collections of Ferdinando Cospi and she considered whether the Islamic art material was collected for its aesthetic  qualities or for its relevance to the Islamic world. Using descriptions from original catalogues she suggested that many of the objects were collected for their beauty – their Islamic origins were not mentioned and sometimes their actual use was wrongly interpreted. In contrast the manuscripts that were collected were often translated and their relevance known. It was a really interesting talk and an opportunity to learn more about the art culture of Italy at that time.

Last Thursday, 21st January the Society hosted a film showing of Inshallah, Kashmir, a 2012 documentary film directed, produced and written by Ashvin Kumar. Ashvin introduced the film which presents the human and political situation in contemporary Kashmir, and the film provided much cause for reflection on issues in Kashmir and beyond. The showing was followed by a Q&A session with the director as well as a reception. Ashvin is currently working on Noor, the next part of his series of films on Kashmir, which is the story of three generations of women trapped in one of the world’s forgotten conflicts.

Ashvin Kumar (left) discussing the film after the showing

Then on Tuesday 26th January we had another film evening – of a completely different nature. Amara Thornton (UCL Institute of Archaeology) and Michael McCluskey (UCL English) introduced archival footage from 1930s Iraq captured by the archaeologist Reginald Campbell Thompson. Amara spoke about Reginald Campbell Thompson’s life and Michael gave insights into film making in the 1930s. This footage is the only archival film in the RAS Collections so it was a great delight to see it being highlighted. Amara and Michael have offered to write a blog about the film and the man who made it, so we look forward to their post in the near future.

Amara Thornton
Amara Thornton tells us about Reginald Campbell Thompson
Michael McCluskey explains about amateur film-making in the 1930s
Michael McCluskey explains about amateur film-making in the 1930s

Our next event will be the RAS lecture on Thursday 11th February when Dr Sir Jim Mallinson (SOAS) will speak on “A History of Yoga and Yoga Scholarship”. This will be followed by the next lecture in the Fresh Perspectives Series on Tuesday 23rd February when Benedict Leigh (UCL, Qatar, British Museum) will lecture on “C.R. Ashbee’s vision of Jerusalem, the English Arts and Crafts Movement in the Middle East”. Please note that this lecture is taking place a week later than originally advertised in the Fresh Perspectives programme.