“The Earth turns to Gold, in the Hands of the Wise”
Jalāl al-Dīn Muḥammad Rūmī

This quote forms the overarching statement for Aga Khan Centre Gallery’s first in a series of exhibitions exploring issues around climate change, and was visited recently by Professor Kassam, Director of The Institute of Ismaili Studies. Seeds, Trees & Mountains (February – June 2023), curated by AKC Gallery’s curator Esen Salma Kaya is a unique partnership between Aga Khan Centre Gallery, Aga Khan Agency for Habitat (AKAH) and Wakehurst — RBG (Royal Botanic Gardens) Kew’s wild botanic garden in Sussex — home to the Millennium Seed Bank and over 500 acres of diverse landscapes and plants from across the globe. It features work by artists Veeda Ahmed, Samantha Buckley, Emily Ketteringham, Karim Ahmed Khan, Samanta Batra Mehta, Olga Prinku, Andrea Roberts, and Diana Taylor.

“It was such a delight to welcome Professor Kassam to view the current exhibition Seeds, Trees & Mountains at Aga Khan Centre Gallery. I was keen to do a walk and talk to not only discuss my curatorial approach for this exhibition but also to explain my overarching aims, objectives and ambitions for the Gallery – both its artistic and engagement programmes. As this is Professor Kassam’s first exhibition as the new IIS Director, I wanted to welcome her myself, so we could connect on matters around cultural connections. I also welcomed the opportunity to celebrate the Gallery’s past exhibitions, explore how best the Gallery can support the work of IIS and the other institutes under the AKDN umbrella and principally, to share its mission around championing His Highness the Aga Khan’s blue-sky ambition around pluralism. I am very much looking forward to developing a close working relationship with Professor Kassam to help raise awareness of the work of IIS through artistic and cultural activity.” – Esen Kaya

The exhibition is formed of three phases, beginning with a screening of Voices from the Roof of the World, an environmental documentary film series sponsored by Aga Khan University, Aga Khan Agency for Habitat, Aga Khan Foundation and University of Central Asia about the climate crisis in High Mountain Asia.

The second phase includes collaborations with Aga Khan Agency for Habitat and Wakehurst. Artists Diana Taylor, Emily Ketteringham, Karim Ahmad, Olga Prinku, Samantha Batra Mehta, and Andrea Roberts have created artworks reflecting the abundance of biodiversity. The artwork shown will include existing and new work produced during their residencies, revealing an idealistic view of the abundance of biodiversity based on specific information in relation to the work the partner organisations are involved, including data from Kew’s Garfield Weston Global Seed Bank and AKAH’s work on nature-based solutions.

The third phase brings in a partnership with One Resilient Earth. This point marks a dramatic shift in the exhibition content. Much of the artwork will change, new work will be installed to replace existing artwork, as a way of creating an indicator for discussion around loss and climate change and how we sit with this as humans. Through this shift in exhibition content and the exhibition’s learning programme, the Gallery aims to create more opportunities for discussion and engagement around climate change and the ways in which visitors can get involved in the conversation.


Find out more about the exhibition