Multaqa: Museum As Meeting Point
Multaqa is Arabic and means Meeting Point.
The Syrian and Iraqi cultural artefacts displayed in the Museum of Islamic Art and in the Museum of the Ancient Near East are outstanding products from the history of humankind.
The museum as a place for meeting and discussion: refugees can encounter their cultures here and see how their homelands are valued in foreign countries.
The guided tours in the four different museums show on the one hand Syrian and Iraqi cultural artefacts and on the other hand German culture and history, with all their crises and renewals.
The idea behind Multaqa: Meeting Place Museum is to create new points of contact between visitors and the museums. Museums are places of memory where past and present meet.
By focusing on historical and cultural connections between Germany, Syria and Iraq and upon features held in common across the ages, this offers a unique opportunity for developing a sense of community.
The statue of the weather god Hadad is my favourite object, because it reminds me of my homeland and its traditional tales. We grew up with such tales about the god Hadad Baal and all the good things, like rain and crops, that he provided to the people.
"Multaka" is very important because this country didn’t only open shelters – it opened museums, too! The weekly tours give refugees not only insights into their own heritage, but also into the twists and turns of Germany’s dark past and subsequent recovery. So I can give them hope.
I discovered my favourite exhibit on my very first visit to the Museum of the Ancient Near East.
A Sumerian cylindrical seal that was once used for monitoring trade and signing clay tablet letters portrays the god Dumuzid with a pair of branches growing out of his body, with which he is feeding two goat-like animals. To the left and right are bowed bamboo canes symbolizing the goddess Inanna. The whole thing is inspired by the myth of the rebirth of Dumuzid.
What this means to me is that terrible times are always followed by something good and that we should never give up hope of reconstruction.
For me, the Samaritan niche in the Museum of Islamic Art is a little bit of Damascus, and so a piece of home.
When I am standing in front of it I can smell the old familiar smells and sense the coolness of the marble.
During that hour in the museum we move along a path to integration. In the face of the old stones telling us stories from our far-off homeland we can lose some of our fear of the new culture. The exhibits in the museum are migrants just like us.
My favourite object is the Aleppo room, as it illustrates a wonderful rich dialogue between different religions, nationalities, countries and ethnicities.
This beautiful meeting point between Chineese Qilin dragon and Sasanian Simurgh, Sufi poetry with Christian blessings promotes the feelings of openness and transfers from a generation to another the cultural meanings, which has a great value for the collective memory and Syrian cultural identity.
Many visitors come from Aleppo, but most have no idea about this aspect of their own cultural history, which they discover here to have a more international flavour than they thought. Exactly that is what I find it important to get across, because only if we recognize that our own culture has always developed in a dialogue with other cultures can we be open to new things in a confident way.
My favorite object in the Near East Museum is the Giant bird which is sculptured from baselt volcanic stone.
It is from the collection of Tell Halaf one of the archaeological site of my homeland Syria. It reminds me of my homeland and of the story of the Phoenix bird which obtains new life by arising from the ashes of its predecessor.
It is giving me hope that regardless what's happening in my homeland Syria the glory of its history will last for ever. As this giant bird is still in the Museum in Berlin even though during the second world war it was destroyed in pieces and ashes after the bombing of the museum. And it was recreated as the rest of the tall half objects after several years.
When I think of the art in the Bode Museum, what comes to mind first is the ‘Dancer’. What makes her exceptional is the contrast between her completely white face and the idiosyncratic colouring of the material of her body.
The artist Antonio Canova has clothed her in a transparent dress. All parts of her body can be guessed at from a distance. You can look at her and analyse her for hours on end.
Every time I show people the ‘Dancer’, we stand in front of her for a good quarter of an hour concentrating on this extraordinary work of art by Antonio Canova.