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Preserving Ramadhan rituals through the art of Warli

Ramadhan is a highly anticipated month among Muslims that some prepare for its arrival two months in advance as if waiting for a valued guest they haven’t seen in a long time. Rightly so, the holy month is the month of repentance and forgiveness from Allah, when souls are purified and the promise of reward for good deeds is multiplied.

Ramadhan rituals for Omanis are sacred matters. Having inherited many of these practices from their ancestors, they are keen on keeping them alive. These rituals can be seen not only in how the Omanis behave but how they conduct themselves.

Continuing her initiative from last year, Omani artist Marwa al Hinai celebrated her holy month by religiously practising their family’s tradition and in the same manner, she also documented their Ramadhan rituals through the popular Indian art of “warli.”

This year, one of the traditions Marwa focused on is the lighting of the lantern that is practised not just in Oman but across the Muslim world.

“Some traced the origin of this tradition in Egypt, in the time of Al-Muizz li-Din Allah (A person with many religious contributions) in 362 AH [AH means in the year of the Hegira of the Muslim era. It is used in the Muslim calendar for reckoning years from Muhammad’s departure from Mecca in AD 622, who is the messenger of Allah] when he entered the city of Cairo at night,” she mentioned.

“As the story goes, people came out to welcome him carrying lanterns in order to light his path. The welcoming event took a festive atmosphere and since it coincided with the advent of the month of Ramadhan, the “lantern” became associated with the festive atmosphere of the holy month, transcending its functional nature of just lighting the street,” Marwa said.

Practising this tradition signals to the non-Muslims that the holy month has arrived and as for the believers, it sanctifies that arrival. This also gives meaning to the season to children who are just beginning to practise fasting.

“Children have something to look forward to. Children are usually trained gradually in fasting until they reach the obligatory age to fast. What this means is that they only fast a small part of the day of Ramadhan, like about three or four hours and then they can break their fast,” she said.

Marwa shared that there are other commendable traditions practised during Ramadhan that she felt were worthy of preserving through her art.

She shared that some Ramadhan customs are basically acts of worship and obedience done by Muslims to become closer to God.

Abundant giving of donations and alms is an example of that with Marwa explaining, ‘’Some Muslims reach out to charity organisations to distribute donations to needy people. The value of giving is being instilled in children through some activities. One of the famous activities in Oman is encouraging children to collect their alms throughout the year and when the month of Ramadhan comes, they celebrate with their peers by breaking their piggy banks, counting the money in them and handing over what they collected to the authorities concerned with distributing the money to those who deserve it,” she shared.

Blood donation is another type of giving that can be done in Ramadhan. ‘’Donating blood during Ramadhan can only be done in times of emergencies, for instance, there are accidents. crises such as traffic accidents, because the fasting person by his donation is forced to break his fast in order to preserve his healthy balance,” she shared.

Marwa shared that she is proud of these practices and to best preserve them, she uses her art Warli art which is a folk-art painting used by the Warli tribe of Maharashtra in India to convey their daily and social events to a populace who are not acquainted with the written word.

The technique of drawing this kind of art, she explained, is very basic using simple graphic vocabulary that usually includes triangle, rectangle, circle, line... etc. The artist positions them and controls their movement. “This art is very minimal with colours mostly using a lot of white space. The contemporary artists, nevertheless, were able to transcend the boundaries and utilise this art in the proportion of their artistic needs,” Marwa noted.

[Part 1 of 2]

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