The Aga Khan University's Institute for the Study of Muslim Civilisations (AKU-ISMC) proudly announced the second edition of the "Football and Religion Exhibition: Tales of Hope, Passion Play" in Lisbon, Portugal, following the success of its inaugural edition in London in September 2022. This unique exhibition, inspired by Professor Leif Stenberg's pioneering research on the interplay between football and religion, explored the shared values, experiences, and dreams encapsulated by these seemingly distinct facets of human life.
Curated by Esen Kaya, the Aga Khan Centre Gallery Curator, the exhibition featured displays, interactive exhibits, and compelling narratives that illuminated the connections between football and religion. It showcased how the devotion and passion exhibited by fans and adherents alike served as unifying elements across diverse societies, transcending cultural and religious boundaries. Renowned visual artist and animator Ed Merlin Murray created a series of immersive short animations, featuring interviews with football players from around the world, revealing their personal relationships with football and religion. Players like Aksa Nisar, Cheikhou Kouyaté, and Linvoy Primus MBE shared their stories, adding depth to the exhibition. This edition included an interview with persons from Portugal, including former Portuguese international João Pereira.
The exhibition is by no means a formal statement on the confluence of football and religion but a glimpse into the subject through a series of stories, ideas and experiences from individuals and organisations connected with both the world of sport and that of the spirit. The exhibition touches upon the diversity of the subject and how these worlds are becoming increasingly interwoven as awareness grows of the cultural and religious needs of players and of others involved in the game. And indeed, how societal attitudes and ideas are evolving as a result.
Throughout the exhibition's run, AKU-ISMC collaborated closely with the Ismaili Community in Lisbon, organising seminars, discussions, and interactive sessions that encouraged dialogue and reflection on the themes of football, religion, and community. The exhibition also welcomed external visitors, fostering cross-cultural understanding, and drawing a diverse audience.
Special community and youth outreach events, led by curator Esen Kaya, took place throughout the exhibition's tenure, showcasing the community's strong engagement.
AKU-ISMC extended its gratitude to the Ismaili Centre for hosting the exhibition, coinciding with their 25th Anniversary, and to the Aga Khan Development Network (AKDN) Delegation in Lisbon for their invaluable support.
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