Why do we collect?

In 1974 the Italian writer Italo Calvino wrote an essay called ‘Collection of Sand…

Alexandria to Brussels, 1879

By Rachel Beckles Willson There’s a bit of a mystery surrounding this oud. Victor Mahillon, curator of the Museum of Musical Instruments at the Brussels Conservatoire, acquired it from Alexandria in 1879. Saskia Willaert, curator of African Collections at the museum, has gathered sources relating to the purchase, and from these we learn that Mahillon…

Oud of a luthiery student

By Karim Othman Hassan We know nothing of Mustafa, the maker of this oud, apart from the fact that he was studying carpentry or instrument making. So Stockholm’s Swedish Museum of Performing Arts (Scenkonstmuseet) is home to the instrument of an intermediate-level student. Why might the instrument be significant? Part of the answer lies in…

Adana to Stockholm

By Rachel Beckles Willson The label of this oud tells an interesting story. It seems to have been made by a man called Mustafa, who was a student registered as ‘no. 77’ at a vocational school of arts in Adana. The date of the making is noted in the Rumi calendar, which translates to the…

Our oldest Nahat

By Karim Othman Hassan This Damascus-made oud is without doubt the most impressive and – to the best of our knowledge – the oldest surviving instrument made by the Nahat family. Until recently it was assumed that the brothers Rufan and Abdou Nahat (Ikhwan Nahat) founded the first Nahat carpentry workshop in 1880. It is…

Damascus to London c.1880

By Rachel Beckles Willson Some time between 1878 – when it was made – and 1894, when it was presented as a gift to the Prince of Wales in London, an oud travelled to London. It is the first one we know that has a label inside revealing the maker, the place of the workshop,…