Professor Azim Nanji, Director of the IIS, gave a paper to the Parma Symposium (15-17 May, 2007), tracing the historical framework of exchange and dialogue among institutions of learning during the medieval period. This Symposium, entitled "Islam e Occidente: Dialogo Tra Culture" (Islam and the West: An Intercultural Dialogue), included presentations from representatives of many distinguished institutions.
The Symposium was part of and associated with the "Splendori a Corte" (Splendours of the Court) exhibition. Professor Nanji’s talk (see abstract) was in the session “Le Università: Incontro Dei Saperi” and focussed on exchange and dialogue at the level of ‘universities and higher institutions of learning’ during the medieval period and the commonality of subject matter and shared academic patterns that existed in both Muslim and Christian universities of the time.
The "Splendori a Corte", at the Palazzo della Pilotta in Parma, is a presentation of Muslim arts, culture and music in all their historic, cultural and geographical diversity. It comprises the exhibition, a series of musical performances and workshops. The programme opened on 31 March 2007 and will run for two months in Parma before touring other European cities.
As well as items of rare art and manuscripts from the forthcoming Aga Khan Museum's permanent collections (expected to open in 2010), there was a music programme of five concerts featuring four different ensembles, which presented aspects of Central Asia’s musical traditions. This programme of sacred music was presented by the Aga Khan Trust for Culture in collaboration with the Teatro Regio di Parma and Parma Capitale della Musica. The Aga Khan Music Initiative for Central Asia helps to preserve the musical heritage of Central Asia. Each performance was accompanied by an introduction about the music, its tradition and about the musicians.
“This Exhibition of artistic masterpieces from the Islamic world underlines that the arts, particularly when they are spiritually inspired, can become a medium of discourse that transcends the barriers of our day-to-day experiences and preoccupations” said His Highness the Aga Khan. “Many questions are currently being raised in the West about the Muslim world, with countless misconceptions and misunderstandings occurring between our contemporary societies. I hope that this exhibition will hold a special significance at a time which calls for enlightened encounters amongst faiths and cultures.”
The symposium on the theme of "Islam and the West: An Intercultural Dialogue" and associated workshops aimed at highlighting the variegated cultural-exchange relationship between Muslim and European peoples from the Middle Ages to the present day were organised by the University of Parma, the Aga Khan Trust for Culture and the Parma Capitale della Musical Foundation.