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Explore History: Objects from Asia

Discover history and culture through objects from Asia! This a corner exhibition curated by faculty members, students, and community members to share their unique culture and heritage.

Display your own cultural heritage or personal experience in this collaborative crowd-sourced exhibition! With contributions from students, faculty, and community members, we explore Asian histories, cultures, and experiences through everyday objects. A piece of crockery might teach us about a region's culinary culture or about a family's (im)migration; a cherished doll or figurine might teach us about international styles of dress or about childhood experience; a mass-produced souvenir might teach us about a shifting economy or a life-changing holiday. * Explore History: Objects from Asia is made possible thanks to the support of the Presidential Mini-Grant for Diversity Initiatives. 

Selected objects are on view both at the Charles B. Wang Center and website.
Please visit the Charles B. Wang Center to see the actual objects!


Do you have an object that should be a part of this exhibition? Please see the Explore History Call for Proposals and Preliminary Submission Form for details about how to make your contribution!

Object for the Month of February 2015 
Prayer Rug from Pakistan

feb photo
Installation Photo by Zifei Wu

A prayer rug (janamaz in Urdu) is a fabric used by Muslims during their times of prayer. The act of Muslim prayer includes several different body positions, such as prostration, sitting on the ground and standing. It is necessary for the prayer to be performed on a clean and pure surface. The prayer rug serves as a clean surface between the worshipper and the ground.

Prayer rugs are an essential item found in the home of every Pakistani Muslim. Each member of the family has his or her own prayer rug which he or she keeps in a clean location. It is traditional for a Pakistani mother to give her daughter a prayer rug on her wedding day. This gift symbolizes the significance of the daughter's starting her new life with a new family. The prayer rug that is given on the wedding day is usually of better quality than an average prayer rug, and the wedding gift prayer rug is also made of a brighter color to represent the vibrant, joyous occasion.

The prayer rug on display was given to me by my grandmother who lived in Pakistan. It has been a way for me to stay connected to my roots and to my grandmother who recently passed away. This prayer rug started as just that, a prayer rug, but over time it has become a cherished memory of my grandmother. Everytime I use this prayer rug, I am reminded of my grandmother’s beautiful spirit. Prayer rugs are usually passed down from generation to generation. Some museums hold prayer rugs that date back to the late 16th century. The decorative pattern, material, dyes and colors used in Muslim prayer rugs vary greatly depending on the region they come from. The design of the rug usually incorporates Islamic art, symbols and architecture, such as the Kaaba, a minaret, or the dome of a mosque. The design of the rug represents the richness of Islamic history, the value of the prayer rug, and the act of prayer itself.

Zara Sayeed, SBU Student

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Charles B. Wang Center

Stony Brook University
100 Nicolls Road, Suite 302
Stony Brook, NY 11794-4040

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Phone: (631) 632-4400
Fax: (631) 632-9503
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