Morris and the Muslims
Tuesday 7 July, 11:30 on BBC Radio 4
Navid Akhtar examines the influence of Islamic design and values on the life of the Victorian designer, poet, craftsman and socialist radical William Morris.The connection had never before occurred to me though when you think about William Morris' designs, it seems obvious. But it's also intriguing (perhaps more so) that he was interested in 'the Muslim world' in relation to his own socialist beliefs. If you miss the broadcast slot, then you will probably be able to catch it afterwards on the R4 'listen again' site.
Morris was inspired by Turkish ceramics and Persian carpets to create a new movement in British design. For him, the Muslim world had managed to preserve the art of the craftsman and avoid the ills of industrial production. He espoused the philosophy that art should be affordable and hand made; this was already a reality in the Islamic world.
Not stopping at arts and crafts, he was a passionate advocate of social utopianism and believed in the rights of the worker. Today, these ideals have profoundly influenced a new generation of British-born Muslim artists, as they rediscover Morris and look to his artistic work and socialist ideas for inspiration.
Picture right: Snakeshead printed textile, 1876 (Morris & Co. textiles)