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Nur (Qur’an, sura 24:35; “The Light Verse”), Jamelie Hassan, mixed media, site-specific installation including hand painted calligraphy ceiling panels inspired by 16th Century calligraphy from the central cupola of Hagia Sophia Mosque (Istanbul), and glass lamps from Cairo (Egypt), 2014

Collection of Great Mosque of Xian (donated by the artist with support from the Xian Art Museum)

Born in Canada of Arabic background, Jamelie Hassan is a visual artist and active lecturer, writer and independent curator. Since the 1970s she has created a body of work that is intensely driven by an engagement in both local and international politics and cultures. Her interdisciplinary installations explore personal and public histories.


A survey exhibition of her work, Jamelie Hassan: At the Far Edge of Words

organized by Museum London (Ontario, Canada) and the the Morris and Helen Belkin Art Gallery at the University of British Columbia circulated around Canada (2009-2013) accompanied by a publication (2010). This exhibition was awarded the Best Exhibition of the Year (2009) from the Ontario Art Gallery Association.


Her installation Garden of Light was selected for the Pearson Garden of Peace & Understanding at University of Toronto for the city's first Nuit Blanche 



Jamelie Hassan


Seek Knowledge Even onto China, red paint, Chinese and Arabic calligraphy in vinyl, edition of 3, 1993-95

Collection of the artist and the University of Lethbridge Art Gallery (Leithbridge, Alberta)

(September 30, 2006). She participated in the Havana Biennial in 2009 and recently the Quebec City’s Biennal, Manif 7, Resistance: And Then We Built New Forms in 2014. Her works are presently touring in international exhibitions, including Digital Silk Routes and

In Order to Join: the Political in a Historical Moment organized by Museum Abteiberg in Monchengladbach, Germany (2013-14) touring to Mumbai, India in 2015.


Her works are included in numerous public collections in Canada and internationally, including the National Gallery of Canada (Ottawa) the Art Gallery of Ontario (Toronto),

Museum London (Ontario, Canada), the Vancouver Art Gallery, the Morris and Helen Belkin Art Gallery at the University of British Columbia, the New Museum of Contemporary Art, (New York City, USA) and the Library of Alexandria (Egypt).


Jamelie Hassan is the recipient of numerous awards including: the Commemorative Medal for the 125th Anniversary of the Confederation of Canada (1992) in recognition of significant contribution to compatriots, community and Canada,  the Governor General's Award in Visual and Media Arts (2001) and the Chalmers Art Fellowship (2006). In 2012 she was awarded the Canada Council for the Arts artist in residence at La Cité Internationale des Arts (Paris). She was recently awarded the Canadian Council of Muslim Women’s Women Who Inspire Award (2013).


Her commitment to community and public space has involved highly diverse sites.

She was one of the founders of two artist-run centres in London (Ontario): the Forest City Gallery (1973- on-going) and the Embassy Cultural House (1983-1990), organizing both national and international programs including with Mexico,Cuba, Jordan and India.

In the 1990’s She was a selected artist to work with the advisory team of consultants and architects in dialogue with the complex of communities affected by the Light Rapid Transit on Spadina Avenue in Toronto, developing concepts and sites for public art. In 2001 she participated in workshops to develop programs and display within the newly constructed Museum of World Culture, University of Goteborg (Sweden). She has frequently  served as a member of advisory panels and art juries for the Art Gallery of Ontario (Toronto), the Ontario Arts Council, both Toronto and Canada Council for the Arts. She served as a member on the advisory committee for the “Minister’s Forum on Culture & Diversity” (2003) at the Museum of Civilization (Gatineau, Quebec).

Jamelie Hassan Artist Statement


Installation works are dependent on many factors but the site and its context are fundamental - what one might call the hospitality of the site to embrace the idea.

Previous installation works of mine have addressed histories, both personal and public, and the architectural aspect of the installation’s space and context is a major determining factor.

The site of the Great Mosque of Xi’an and its founding in 742 during the Tang Dynasty offers a compelling history and is the inspiration for my work, Nur.

The Great Mosque has a quiet beauty with its Chinese architecture and gardens. Islamic inscriptions and motifs are combined throughout the site. These dual cultural elements create an extraordinary presence within the city’s vibrant Muslim quarter.

In my installation work Nur, (Light) Arabic script is painted onto panels which are in proportion to the ceiling of the library of the Great Mosque of Xi’an. This Arabic calligraphy is a repeat motif that moves across the space. The calligraphy is based on the text on the ceiling of the dome of the Hagia Sophia in Istanbul which is from the verse Nur (Light) in the Qur’an. 24:35. Artefacts are evidence of the significant cultural exchanges along the Silk Route which took place between countries from West Asia and sites in China. These artefacts are found in museum collections internationally, including in Canada, West Asia and China.

Language and the politics of language are often a part of my work including the use of Arabic calligraphy and text. In Even Onto China, from 1995, the Arabic saying (hadith) was one that my father would repeat to us, his Canadian-born children, growing up in a Muslim household in a small city in southern Ontario.

“ Seek Knowledge Even Onto China" creates a geographical trajectory of philosophical orientation. This work was created during my solo exhibition at Art Speak Gallery in Vancouver  (1995). I invited two people from the Vancouver community, each with calligraphic skills, one in Arabic (Hanna Kawas), the other in Chinese (Jin Li) to participate in the installation by commenting on the meaning of this Arabic expression and then writing this saying in their respective scripts on the wall of the gallery. Subsequent installations involved working from this original writing of the text in Vancouver. This installation Seek Knowledge Even Onto China has been presented in numerous exhibitions and was included in the survey exhibition Jamelie Hassan: At the Far Edge of Words curated by Melanie Townsend and Scott Watson for Museum London, London, ON (April 2009) and the Morris and Helen Belkin Gallery, The University of British Columbia, Vancouver, BC. (June 2010). A publication Jamelie Hassan: At the Far Edge of Words accompanied this exhibition and includes documentation and text on this work. The University of Lethbridge Art Gallery, Lethbridge, Alberta acquired this work for the university's collection in 2010.

Other exhibitions which included Seek Knowledge Even Onto China are Jamelie Hassan: Recent Works, curated by Bashir Makhoul, Castlefield Gallery, Manchester, UK, (1996);The Ends of the Museum/Els Limits del Museu, curated by John G. Hanhardt and Thomas Keenan, Fondacio Antoni Tapies, Barcelona, Spain (1995); Temporarily Possessed, New  Museum of Contemporary Art, New York, NY. USA, (1995); Al Din's Gift, Art Gallery of York University, Toronto, ON (1997) and Art Gallery of Windsor, Windsor, ON (1997).

These two works express the inner and outer of being, the private and the public, the solitary and the collective, and as texted-based works each reflects an imperative to pursue knowledge across great distances and landscapes. 

Representative Works

Could we ever know each other...?, recycled neon mounted onto colour photograph, 2013

Collection of the artist

Photography: Ron Benner

Boutros Al Armenian/Mediterranean Modern, view of installation, installation located in interior of private home in Windsor re-creating a ceiling painting from the 1920's with glazed ceramic books and video, (Bedros), 1997

Photography: Cheryl O'Brien

Slippers of Disobedience, colour photograph with neon, 2 wooden book stands, 2 pairs of ceramic slippers, 1996

Collection of the Art Gallery of Windsor (Windsor, Ontario, Canada)

Photography: John Tamblyn

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