UNCA examines destruction of Middle East antiquities

Artist also talks about ancient glassblowing

Staff reports

UNC Asheville will present "Islamic Art: Between Preservation and Destruction," a series of scholarly presentations and exhibitions, free and open to the public through Sept. 30. On Sept. 21-22, archaeologist and sculptor Alysia Fischer will give two free lectures on campus about ancient glassblowing in the Near East.

"The military and political struggles in the Muslim world are placing humanity’s most ancient and vulnerable cultural heritage at risk,” said UNC Asheville professor of history Samer Traboulsi, who is convening the Islamic art presentations. “This is a crucial time to discuss the issues involved in presenting and preserving Islamic art and understanding the politico-religious factors putting it at risk.”

A picture takenMarch 14, 2014 shows the Temple of Baal Shamin seen through two Corinthian columns in the ancient oasis city of Palmyra, 215 kilometres northeast of Damascus. Islamic State group jihadists on Aug. 23, 2015 blew up the ancient temple of Baal Shamin in the UNESCO-listed Syrian city of Palmyra, the country's antiquities chief said. "Daesh placed a large quantity of explosives in the temple of Baal Shamin today and then blew it up causing much damage to the temple," said Maamoun Abdulkarim, using another name for ISIL. ISIL, which controls swathes of Syria and neighbouring Iraq, captured Palmyra on May 21, sparking international concern about the fate of the heritage site described by UNESCO as of "outstanding universal value".

  • Sept. 21 – "Paradise Found, The Wonder of Islamic Art," a documentary film: This film was produced for England’s Channel 4 by Waldemar Januszczak, one of the U.K.’s leading art critics, formerly with The Guardian and The Sunday Times. 11 a.m. in Lipinsky Auditorium.
  • Sept. 22 – A Cultural Genocide: ISIS and the Destruction of Cultural Heritage in the Middle East: UNCA history professor Samer Traboulsi offers a lecture examining the destructive acts against cultural heritage sites in the Middle East committed by ISIS since 2014, in the light of radical ideologies rooted in the puritan Salafi interpretation of Islam. 7 p.m. in Humanities Lecture Hall.
  • Sept. 24 – "Unveiled: A One-Woman Show" Rohina Malik will bring to life five different Muslim women with five different stories revolving around different cups of tea. Malik is a playwright, actress and performance artist of South Asian descent who was born in London and moved to Chicago as a teen. 9 p.m. in Highsmith Union, in the Grotto.
  • Through Sept. 30 – Photo exhibition: "Ravaging the Past: Radicalism, Civil Wars, and the Destruction of World Heritage in the Middle East and Beyond" – This exhibit, curated by UNCA lecturer in art history Eva Bares and her students, will focus on the art and architecture that has been destroyed by radical groups throughout the Middle East, Central and South Asia and Mali. This exhibition will be on view in UNC Asheville’s Ramsey Library Foyer during regular library hours, http://library.unca.edu/about/hours

For more, contact Jessica Park at jpark1@unca.edu or 828-251-6808.

Fischer, an archaeologist, installation artist, sculptor, and craftsperson, will present the two public lectures at UNCA at 7:30 p.m., Wednesday, Sept. 21 in Ramsey Library’s Whitman Room, and at noon on Thursday, Sept. 22, in Humanities Lecture Hall.

As an artist, Fischer is uniquely positioned to study glassblowing technology in the ancient Near East from an ethno-archaeological perspective and has published numerous articles and monographs on the subject.  She is a lecturer at the Center for American and World Cultures at Miami University of Ohio where she earned an MFA in studio art. She also holds a Ph.D. in archaeology from the University of Arizona.

Aylsia Fischer has worked on the excavations at Sepphoris in the Galilee (Israel) for many years.

Fischer has worked on the excavations at Sepphoris in the Galilee (Israel) for many years, as well as in Jordan with local glassblowers investigating that country's refuse/recycling system as it pertains to glass work and craft. In her own art, Fischer uses recycled materials, including tractor inner tubes, fabric and other cast-off objects to comment on the waste produced by our consumption-driven culture.