KHAMSA: Amulets of North Africa
October 9–November 23, 2014
Alcove Gallery, Magill Library
Used for centuries as protective symbols, the khamsa is found in Muslim, Jewish, and Christian traditions in North Africa and the Middle East. The word means “five” in Arabic. Khamsas commonly appear as amulets in the shape of an open hand rendered in silver or other metals and are worn as jewelry or mounted on walls and doorways to bring luck and ward off evil. This exhibition features a private collection of over 30 nineteenth- and twentieth-century khamsas from Morocco.
Curated by students Emma Cohen, Micaela Houtkin, and Miriam Hwang-Carlos under the supervision of Professor Carol Solomon, KHAMSA: Amulets of North Africa will be on view in the Alcove Gallery in Magill Library from October 9 to November 23, 2014. This exhibition is presented in conjunction with Memory, Place, Desire: Contemporary Art of the Maghreb and Maghrebi Diaspora at the Cantor Fitzgerald Gallery at Haverford College from October 24 to December 15, 2014.
As a part of the Curatorial Praxis course last spring, Miriam Hwang-Carlos, Micaela Houtkin, and I worked on a small satellite exhibition on khamsas. Since Memory, Place, Desire deals with contemporary art of the Maghreb, it seemed appropriate to also address the more traditional symbol of the khamsa, which is associated with the region.
Starting with a collection of Moroccan khamsas, the three of us crafted an exhibit dealing with the presence and implication of this symbol from historical to contemporary times. We decided to address three main aspects of the symbol: historical and religious significance, symbolism and iconography, and artistic representations of the khamsa. Within each of these categories we did background research, chose representative images, and created all summarizing texts and labels. Additionally, we got to design the promotional postcards, determine the actual layout of the exhibit, and even help with installation. It was a wonderful opportunity to gain hands on experience in every stage of the making of an exhibit, from conception to research to design.