Coffee Inn: An Artistic Gathering beyond Limits
By Abdul Haseeb
“If you closely examine the petals of a rose flower, you can find God in it” —Muhammadali Shihab al Hadrami.
Art is a mode through which many express as well as perceive reality. Art reflects the culture of a community and their world-view; moreover, it reveals their perception of the universe and the spiritual realm. The vagueness, which is fundamental to art, portrays the quest for realities that exist beyond the ‘forms’ and ‘shapes’. Art has acted as a way to express and convey spiritual messages. But, since the spread of ideology of materialism, art too got vitiated.
Islam has truly encouraged and, as a result, carved its own niche in the history of art and architecture. The traditional Muslim cultures integrated arts and crafts into their everyday life. The case of Kerala was no different. Because of the mainstream religious organizations that regulate the majority of Muslim mass, the field of Muslim art has been stagnant for many decades. Due to the rigid attitude of the Islamic organizations, the artists are hesitant to be under any organization as it hinders their growth.
In such a background, a group of talented and vibrant youngsters understood the gravity of the scenario and united together to celebrate the true value of art and revive the spiritualistic aspects of art. That is how Coffee Inn came into being.
Coffee Inn serves as a platform for value-based artistic engagements and functions as an independent group, beyond the limitations of existing religious organizations, with the blessings of all the reputed visionaries.
The fanaticism and narrow-mindedness of the religious organizations, with which Muslim Kerala is saturated, hinder the growth of artists. The lack of focus and overemphasis on organizational debates has built an intense amount of negative energy in the Muslim community. Laymen, even with a little bit of artistic instincts, are least interested in these futile debates. Though these organizations have great infrastructure, some of which are unequivocal in its madrasa system across the state and beyond, aren’t doing anything to promote and encourage any artistic expressions. We are unable to find a list of reputed and talented artists from the Muslim community of Kerala.
The lack of art is due to the rigid and jurisprudential approach adopted by the major organizations, rather than blending jurisprudence with wisdom and beauty. One of the great Imams of Islam advised: “(Be both) a theologian and a mystic; do not be only one of them.” This advice is apt for the present Muslim organizations in Kerala, particularly those who follow this Imam.
Until recently, the Kerala culture was conservative and so was the Islamic culture. However, the younger generation, in general, is trying its best to overcome such hollowness. Muslim culture should be able to accommodate aspects that are essential.
The expression of beautiful principles of Islam in various art forms is a need of the time, especially when it is drastically misunderstood as a religion of terrorism and extremism. Until and unless these organizations take initiative to highlight the creative people and their work to the public and balance the external and internal, i.e the jurisprudential approach and the approach based on beauty, there is less chance for a positive change in the Kerala Muslim society.
In such a scenario, Coffee Inn has employed a unique strategy to promote its message. ‘The Rose Day’ was one such event that received great applause and it was unprecedented. The event was part of ‘Global Rose Day’, organized by Young Muslims in London, who tried to spread the true message of Prophet Muhammad to the public by handing out roses along with his messages in the form of ‘hadiths’ printed as pamphlets and attached to the rose twig. Giving the ‘roses of love’ was, indeed, a ‘smart’ way of spreading the message of love and compassion taught by the Prophet. Coffee Inn also screens films and documentaries. ‘Fez: City of Saints’, a documentary produced by Radical Middle Way, was screened for the first time in South India by this group. This documentary has already been screened in London, Toronto, Cardiff, and Singapore. We dream of doing many more things for a better future through artistic expressions.
[Abdul Haseeb is the Team Executive of Coffee Inn Art Community. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org]
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