Portable Mosques: The Sacred Space of the Prayer Rug

Date: Mar 3 - Sep 3, 2012
Curated by: Natalia Nekrassova

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An important element of worship within the Islamic world, the prayer rug is a powerful expression of world view, integrating local aesthetics and materials as well as textile practices shared across centuries and generations of weavers. Drawing on the TMC’s significant collection of carpets and rugs, Portable Mosques: The Sacred Space of the Prayer Rug features 30 prayer rugs created during the early 19th and early 20th centuries.


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As part of daily life within Muslim cultures, the prayer rug is used several times a day, offering a clean and sanctified space in both material and representational form. Each has intricate and powerful symbolic meaning, enacting a transcendent space isolated from the profane world in which to concentrate in prayer. Connecting the individual to the realm of the sacred, the prayer rug’s design embodies architectural details – niches and arches which represent directional points to orient the worshipper towards Mecca. Through this symbolism, the prayer rug functions in effect as a portable mosque, fusing personal with collective experiences as well as physical and sacred spaces.

The exhibition will present characteristic examples of prayer rugs from Afghanistan, Azerbaijan, India, Iran and Turkey, exploring over a century of symbolism and the meaning of motifs and compositions through nuances of local practices of rug production in this region.