Rope - header 2Quilliam Event

An Exploration of Sexuality and Islam

Unbreakable rope

10 March 2016
Private view 9 March 6pm – 9pm
At Free World Centre, London

A press breakfast will take place 9am – 11am, Wednesday 9 March, with a curatorial tour and a chance to interview artists, artistic director and curators. Please RSVP to confirm attendance.

Quilliam Foundation, the world’s first counter-extremism think tank, and Free Word Centre, an international centre for literature, literacy and free expression, are partnering to present an exhibition entitled Unbreakable Rope – An Exploration of Sexuality in Islam at Free Word Centre from 10 March to 8 June 2016. Unbreakable Rope brings together the works of 10 international artists who examine issues surrounding the diversity of sexuality in Islam through themes of memory, sensuality and identity. The show will run alongside theatrical and immersive events as part of Quilliam’s first creative programme, the Season of #Solidarity.

Inspired by Love in Bloom, an eighth century classical, erotic Arabic poem by Abu Nuwas, Unbreakable Rope explores diverse sexual orientations within Islamic cultures, past, present and future. The exhibition will illuminate sexual plurality as existing in conservative and progressive societies, incorporating historical reference points from all over the world to debunk the myth that non-heteronormative identity is a modern or Western construct. Artists will explore experiences of individuals identifying as Muslim, who do not fit neatly into boxes of gay or straight, male or female, erotic or chaste.

The show features work by British visual artist Sarah Maple, whose paintings urge the viewer to challenge staid notions of religion, identity and societal roles of women; American composers Alison Butler and Shane Winter who were commissioned to create an audio work based on an interlude by trans artist Antony Hegarty, called Future Feminism; Iranian/American artist Soody Sharifi, whose miniaturist collages explore the tension between public and private spaces, whilst dismantling the Islamic stereotypes presented through the narrow focus of the news media; Yemeni photographer Ibi Ibrahim, whose work seeks to interrupt unspoken censorship practices and bring to light taboo topics of gender and sexuality in conservative Muslim societies; Pakistani artist Faiza Butt, winner of the UNESCO-Aschberg Bursary, whose vibrant mixed media commission is inspired by Love in Bloom; American artist Rachel Maggart, whose bright and sensual paintings highlight issues surrounding contemporary modes of perception; Kuwaiti born Tareq Sayed Rajab deMontfort, who will perform a series of vignettes drawing on Shakespearean and Quranic verses; Iranian artist Farah Ossouli, who appropriates miniature paintings to dissect and interpret what it means to be an Iranian woman; and British photographer Lisa Bretherick,whose emotive photographs depict the memorial of Nazim Mahmood, who took his own life after being forcibly outed to his conservative Muslim family.

Commissioned by Quilliam, Unbreakable Rope is curated by Rachel Maggart and Harry Seymour. Rachel is an artist, curator and writer, who holds an MA History of Art from Birkbeck College and a BA in Music from New York University. Harry Seymour is an art historian, curator and critic based in London, who graduated from the Courtauld Institute and specialises in exploring the historical dialogue between contemporary and classical art in both Eastern and Western traditions. Nazish Khan is artistic director for Quilliam’s Season of #Solidarity. She combines her legal background and MA in theatre to produce politically charged theatre. The season will be producing EAT Identity, an immersive exploration of being British and a play called Generation J which humanises Quilliam’s research and findings.


Unbreakable Rope – An Exploration of Sexuality in Islam

10 March – 8 June 2016
9am – 9pm, Monday – Friday
Press breakfast, 9 March, 9am – 11am
Private view, 9 March, 6pm – 9pm

Free Word Centre
60 Faringdon Road

Quilliam Website:
Free Word Website:

Quilliam Foundation

Quilliam is the world’s first counter-extremism think tank set up to address the unique
challenges of citizenship, identity, and belonging in a globalised world. Quilliam stands for
religious freedom, equality, human rights and democracy.

Free Word Centre

Free Word is unique; we are the only international centre for literature, literacy and free
expression in the world. From our London hub, the Free Word Centre, we develop local,
national and international collaborations that explore the transformative power of words.

For all press enquiries, interviews and images, please contact [email protected]