From the Islamic countries of Asia to Japan, from the Himalayas to Southeast Asia, spanning thousands of years of history, the MAO (Oriental Art Museum) collections tell of Asian cultural and artistic traditions. Art, history, religion, philosophy and a diversity of cultural events weave their strands across the background and into the works on display. Exhibits can therefore be experienced from a variety of perspectives.
Through collaboration initiatives with communities of new citizens and through special projects for all school levels, the Museum collections are accessible to all city residents and cultural institutions as a springboard for a shared learning experience as well as for mutual understanding and growth.
The Experiences section deals with activities and projects involving a variety of audiences, experiments and co-design activities that are open to different languages, and have been created to encourage multiple and new forms of appropriation, appreciation and sharing of Museum assets.
These activities and their documentation - the faces, words, feelings, smiles and the laughter, as well as the mood and the relationships they have established - are a priceless, intangible legacy for the Museum and its audience, fostering the renown of the collections and endowing them with greater value and new meanings.
A Piece About Us
A group of under 30's reads, sings, dances and describes the collections of the MAO, as well as those of Palazzo Madama, the Historical Archives and the public libraries.
After a period of training to become acquainted with the collections and works of participating institutions, as well as with the more general and theoretical aspects of experiencing and participating, the under 30's become key players and designers in mediating and transferring art heritage by conceiving and organising programmes that include dramatised museum tours, performances, readings and events.
The MAO collections were the focus of 6 staged performances and two videos. All the activities were shared with the public both at the Museum and at other city venues.
The project also provided for the participation of several classes, both at school and at the Museum. It also led to an interesting spin-off called Torino M'ispira: a literary competition for young people between the ages of 16 and 30. The award ceremony was held during the 29th International Book Fair.
The project's lead institution was the Associazione Giovani Musulmani d’Italia-Sezione Torino GMI-TO (Association of young Muslims of Italy - Torino Chapter) and the Associazione culturale Passages as internal partner. The project received financial support from the Compagnia di San Paolo.
Illustrators at the Museum
The project was attended by students from the course on Illustration for Scientific Publishing held by the IED - Istituto Europeo di Design of Torino.
This partnership between the MAO and the IED has led to the convergence of two seemingly very different institutions and languages. The language of the Museum speaks of works of art from distant countries with their related themes, tools, artistic skills, drawings and images: different ways and approaches to convey content converging to design educational material about the collections for children and teenagers.
A group of 17 students from a variety of academic backgrounds and little knowledge of oriental art became acquainted with the Museum and its collections. Considering the variety of projects the students designed and completed, as well as the techniques and materials they used, results proved very interesting overall. Some of the materials were easily used as teaching tools, while other projects contained interesting aesthetic features.
Clothing, starting from Asia
During the 2014-2015 school year, in view of a forthcoming exhibition on clothing in Asia, students from the Renato Cottini Art College created garments and accessories inspired by works that a MAO working group had selected from the extensive collections of the Museum of Anthropology and Ethnography of the University of Torino.
At the end of the school year, students presented their work at the Museum wearing some of their creations and displaying them to the public in the galleries devoted to China, Japan and the Islamic countries of Asia.
Additionally, the IVM-multimedia class from the Renato Cottini Art College produced digital images in which students' creations were placed in settings ranging from realistic to imaginary.
After-school at the Museum
The project was developed with teachers from primary schools from the MAO neighbourhood.
At the end of afternoon classes, children involved in the project are picked up by specially trained staff and escorted from school to the Museum for Collection-based educational and play activities.
After-school at the Museum started during the 2010-2011 school year as an experimental project to make the Museum a familiar point of reference for teachers and families, one of the many features of the city and its environs that people of all ages can experience on a daily and 'normal' basis. After-school is a useful service for families and it establishes a regular relationship with neighbourhood schools that potentially have easier access to the Museum.
Excellent feedback and success from the After-school project led it to be replicated during the school years of 2011-2012 and 2012-2013 and has now become one of the Museum's much appreciated, routine activities.
Naqra Ma'an, Let's read together
The project stemmed from a desire to become acquainted with and share significant features of Arab culture. Italian and Egyptian women attended it. Under the scientific guidance of Professor Francesca Bellino, each of the project’s editions has selected a classical Arabic literary text: Kalila wa Dimna for the first edition in 2011, the Maqamat, short, rhythmic and rhymed prose, for the second edition in 2012.
The participants held regular meetings at the via Saluzzo Islamic Centre in Torino to read, study and comment the text in Arabic and Italian. The text was then presented to an audience during a bilingual reading at the Museum.
The literary texts proved to have a dual value: they emphasised the Egyptian readers' sense of belonging to the Arab culture while they also aroused a sense of sharing and interaction with the group of Italian participants.
From the earliest text readings and study meetings, a number of possible discussion points emerged: immigration, travel issues, life as a quest and a growth process.
When art is a matter of ... signs
Through contacts with the BAB SAHARA Association, based in the San Salvario Neighbourhood Centre, and the Agency for local development, an interesting intercultural dialogue was initiated with a group of young Moroccan families. The topics discussed during the first edition focused on food, flavours, colours in art and in Moroccan cuisine; the concept of art was developed by the use of spices to create a large, colourful and fragrant map of Morocco.
During the second edition at the MAO focus was placed on the theme of Signs understood as calligraphy, which can be considered both as a decorative motif and as an artistic expression. Many Museum exhibits can be related to the concept of signs, for instance the exquisite pages of the Qur'an, the colourful ceramic tiles in the Asian Islamic countries collection, the stunning Tibetan manuscripts or the prints and rolls in the Japan gallery. This edition emphasised how signs, in their many forms, can be considered as artistic expressions that identify cultural or religious contexts.
Il cielo, una coperta per tutti - The sky, a cover for everyone
Project participants were students, adults and young people from the 3d District CTP (Permanent Territorial Centres for Adult Education). They were coordinated and supervised by their teachers.
The MAO acted as project leader for The Fondazione Torino Musei museums, which acted as venues and backdrop for the meetings in which the sky became the main focus: the sky as a cover, the sky as protection, the sky a unifying element between different cultures and faiths. Evocative explorations of the art, history and cultures represented and displayed by the museums, showed how the sky can offer food for thought and lead to interesting exchanges.
Project participants drew on the ideas and contents that had emerged from their museum visits to produce them in graphic form and turning them into texts and images. The work was collected in a publication sponsored by the Piemonte region. The project ended with a farewell event at the MAO and was documented throughout with photographs and video footage.
Z at the MAO
Based on co-design activity between the MAO Education Department and the Laboratorio Zanzara s.c.r.l. onlus, the project was intended as an experiment in developing a Museum tour and an introduction to oriental art with practical activities for groups of mentally disabled visitors, in an attempt to make the Museum not only accessible, but also capable of providing an active experience for individuals whose ability to assimilate and relate have different time frames and modes to those normally envisaged for guided tours.
While strolling through the exhibition galleries under the guidance of/accompanied by the Education Department specialists, works were freely interpreted by the participants through their drawings.
Graphic artists from the Mosquito Lab reworked and assembled drawings made by the participants during the meetings into a presentation.
The project ended during a wrap-up event at the Museum with speeches by the participants and a slideshow of photographs taken during the meetings and a projection of all the reworked drawings.
Using the participants' drawings, the Mosquito Lab graphic artists designed two postcards that can be used as promotional material for Museum Educational Services.