Not Malacca but Marege: Islamic Art in Australia (or, ‘What Have the Umayyads Ever Done for Us?’)

  • Sam Bowker
Part of the Heritage Studies in the Muslim World book series (HSMW)


There is a vibrant and distinctive Islamic art heritage in Australia, which deserves to be examined on its own terms. The curation of art and material culture exhibitions in multicultural Australia, where diverse interest groups contest historical narratives, presents exciting opportunities for public engagement. Both Islamic and Indigenous art share the impact of European Orientalism, social marginalisation and recent politicisation, and thus seek an earnest focus for cultural critique and contemporary reconciliation.

This chapter looks at the differing ways that two major institutions explore revised representations of, and relations between, South-East Asian, Islamic and Indigenous Australian visual cultures to create a distinctive Australian vision of Islamic art. This is a vision that rejects the centrality of the expanded Middle East and showcases the formation of vibrant pluralist identities. The institutions are the Art Gallery of South Australia— which has collected Islamic art since 1916, forming the only permanent display in a public institution in Australia—and Charles Sturt University, which teaches a unique Islamic art subject developed through the experiences of regional Australian students.


Australia Islamic art Islam Australian art Curatorship Exhibition 


  1. Almeida, Dimitri. 2018. Marianne at the Beach: The French Burkini Controversy and the Shifting Meanings of Republican Secularism. Journal of Intercultural Studies 39 (1): 20–34.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  2. Alsami, Idris. 2014. Adhan. YouTube. Accessed 20 February 2019.
  3. Bennett, James. 2005. Crescent Moon: Islamic Art and Civilisation in Southeast Asia. Adelaide and Canberra: Art Gallery of South Australia & National Gallery of Australia.Google Scholar
  4. Bowker, Sam. 2016. Review: ʿIlm and Knowledge in Islam. Art + Australia Online. Accessed 20 February 2019.
  5. ———. 2019. Curating ʿIlm: Chapter or Bridge? In ʿIlm: Science, Religion and Art in Islam, ed. Samer Akkach. Adelaide: University of Adelaide Press. Scholar
  6. Burns, Ross. 1992. Monuments of Syria: A Guide. London: I.B. Tauris.Google Scholar
  7. ———. 2016. Aleppo: A History. London: Routledge.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  8. Cue, Pamela. 2018. Fashion Diplomacy in Action: Showcasing Australian Modest Fashion in Malaysia. Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade, Blog, January 22. Accessed 20 February 2019.
  9. Deen, Hanifa. 2012. Excavating the Past: Australian Muslims. In special issue: ‘Isolation, Integration and Identity: The Muslim Experience in Australia’. La Trobe Journal 89 (May).Google Scholar
  10. Ganter, Regina. 2013. Histories with Traction: Macassan Contact in the Framework of Australian Muslim Identity. In Macassan History and Heritage. Canberra: Australian National University E-Press.
  11. Grimwade Centre and the Centre for the History of Emotions. 2018. Melancholia to Euphoria: Emotion in Middle Eastern Manuscripts. Melbourne: The University of Melbourne.Google Scholar
  12. Hegewald, Julia. 2014. In the Shadow of a Golden Age: Studies in Asian Art and Culture from Gandhara to the Modern Age. Berlin: EB Verlag-Brandt.Google Scholar
  13. Jackson, Tony. 2017. You See Monsters. Melbourne: Chemical Media.
  14. Jones, Glynis. 2018. Introduction. Faith Fashion Fusion. Museum of Applied Arts and Sciences, June 1. Accessed February 2019.
  15. Knights, Mary. 2011. From Nothingness to Belonging. The Australian, September 21. Accessed 14 May 2019.
  16. McEoin, Ewan. 2016. The Australian Islamic Centre, Newport. Melbourne: National Gallery of Victoria.Google Scholar
  17. Mizanur Rashid, M., and Katharine Bartsch. 2014. Architecture of the Adelaide Mosque: Architecture, Hybridity and Assimilation. TDSR 20 (11): 65–76.Google Scholar
  18. National Museum of Australia. 2018. So That You May Know Each Other: Faith and Culture in Islam. Canberra: NMA Press.Google Scholar
  19. Nowell, Liz. 2018. Waqt al-Tagheer: Time of Change. Adelaide: Contemporary Art Centre of South Australia.Google Scholar
  20. NSW Office of Environment & Heritage. 2018. Accessed 20 February 2019.
  21. Rogers, J.M. 2007. Arts of Islam: Treasures from the Nasser D. Khalili Collection. Sydney: Art Gallery of New South Wales.Google Scholar
  22. Ryan, Louise. 2012. Negotiating Difference: Islamic Identity on Display. Presented at the Cultural Studies Association of Australasia Conference in Adelaide, 22–24 November 2011. Published by the International Centre for Muslim and non-Muslim Understanding, University of South Australia.Google Scholar
  23. Safe, Georgia. 2016. The Australian Designer Behind the Burkini. Australia Unlimited, September 30. Published by the Australian Trade and Investment Commission. Accessed 20 February 2019.
  24. Scriver, Peter. 2004. Mosques, Ghantowns and Cameleers in the Settlement History of Colonial Australia. Fabrications 13 (2): 19–41.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  25. Silkatcheva, Ana. 2018. Islamic Art at the National Museum Is Spectacular, but Misses Opportunities to Bridge a Cultural Gap. The Conversation, July 5. Accessed 20 February 2019.
  26. Stevens, Christine. 1989. Tin Mosques and Ghantowns: A History of Afghan Camel Drivers in Australia. Melbourne: Oxford University Press.Google Scholar
  27. Taylor, Luke. 2015. Categories of “Old” and “New” in Western Arnhem Land Bark Painting. In Old History, Deep Time. Canberra: Australian National University Press. Accessed 14 May 2019. Scholar
  28. Thylin, Julia. 2016. The Burkini as a Symbolic Threat: Anthropological Perspectives on the Ban of the Burkini on French Beaches in 2016. Lund, Sweden: Lund University.Google Scholar
  29. Valamanesh, Hossein. 1997. Longing Belonging. Art Gallery of New South Wales. Accessed 20 February 2019.
  30. Vann, Andrew. 2017. Fusion of Western Rationality and Aboriginal Knowledge. University World News 464, June 16. Accessed 14 May 2019.

Copyright information

© The Author(s) 2020

Authors and Affiliations

  • Sam Bowker
    • 1
  1. 1.Charles Sturt UniversityWagga WaggaAustralia

Personalised recommendations