The visual resonances of a Harari Qur’ān: An 18th century Ethiopian manuscript and its Indian Ocean connections

 Author:  Sana Mirza

EH Contributor : Hayat Yusuf Mohammed

 Abstract : Although not widely recognized as Harari, a Qur’ān manuscript in the Khalili Collection

in London (QUR706) provides an opportunity to consider long-distance artistic
circulations and encounters in the early modern Indian Ocean. Dated to 1162/1749, the
Khalili Qur’ān can be linked with Mamluk and earlier Indian Qur’ān manuscripts
through its illuminations and its use of biḥārī script, a type rarely seen outside of India.
Later inscriptions in the Qur’ān record its eventual arrival in Zanzibar. The transregional
visual resonances of the manuscript, and its later circulation, highlight the
position not only of Harar as a regional artistic center within Ethiopia, but also that of
the Horn of Africa within a broader Indian Ocean ecumene. Focusing on the Khalili
Qur’ān, this essay will explore Harar’s nuanced engagement and selective participation
in networks of artistic circulation and exchanges and their role in the formation of a
Harari visual idiom within the burgeoning globalization of 18th-century Ethiopia.