‘From Kalīla wa Dimna to La Fontaine: Travelling through Fables’ at the Louvre Abu Dhabi

Louvre Abu Dhabi, a regional cultural hub, unveils its inaugural exhibition of the year titled ‘From Kalīla wa Dimna to La Fontaine: Travelling through Fables’. In collaboration with Bibliothèque nationale de France, France Muséums, and supported by Van Cleef & Arpels, this exhibition promises to showcase a journey through ancient tales and illustrated fables.
‘From Kalīla wa Dimna to La Fontaine: Travelling through Fables’ Marcomms usage. ©Department of Culture and Tourism–Abu Dhabi. Photo: Ismail Noor/Seeing Things

Curated by Annie Vernay-Nouri, the exhibition explores traditional illustrated fables, immersing visitors into the mystical world of animal tales found within historical manuscripts. Displaying over 132 artworks including rare manuscripts, paintings, and contemporary pieces, the exhibition unveils timeless narratives of friendship, loyalty, cunning, and morality depicted through anthropomorphic animal characters.

Fables, a genre of literature featuring animals or inanimate objects with human-like qualities, convey moral lessons and insights into human behaviour. Passed down through generations, they serve as entertainment and vehicles for wisdom across diverse cultures worldwide.

‘From Kalīla wa Dimna to La Fontaine: Travelling through Fables’ Marcomms usage. ©Department of Culture and Tourism–Abu Dhabi. Photo: Ismail Noor/Seeing Things.

Tracing the genre’s origins from India and Greece, the exhibition highlights key figures like Aesop and Ibn al-Muqaffa, whose contributions shaped fables. The show emphasises the pivotal role of Arabic translations, notably by Ibn Al-Muqaffa, influencing subsequent translations including those by Jean de La Fontaine. La Fontaine, celebrated for his enduring charm and wit, remains a luminary in French literature.

The exhibition, divided into three sections, invites visitors on a textual voyage through adaptations and translations. Notable artefacts, including ancient manuscripts and artworks, enrich the experience.

Utilising artificial intelligence, Louvre Abu Dhabi offers an interactive experience allowing visitors to craft their fables, enhancing engagement and participation. Complementary cultural and educational programs, including talks and film screenings, enrich the visitor experience.

‘From Kalīla wa Dimna to La Fontaine: Travelling through Fables’ Marcomms usage. ©Department of Culture and Tourism–Abu Dhabi. Photo: Ismail Noor/Seeing Things

About Annie Vernay-Nouri

Annie Vernay-Nouri served as the head curator of Arabic manuscripts in the Oriental Manuscripts Department at the Bibliothèque Nationale de France. With a background in sociology, she pursued Arabic studies, earning a master’s degree in literature focusing on the One Thousand and One Nights. Additionally, she graduated from the Institut National des Sciences de l’Information et des Bibliothèques, obtaining a post-graduate diploma in ancient Arabic prints. Vernay-Nouri has curated numerous exhibitions at the BnF and contributed to publications, specialising initially in the material study of Arabic manuscripts and Islamic cartography before focusing on the iconography of Islamic manuscripts. She co-directed a research program on illustrated Arabic manuscripts of Kalila wa Dimna, resulting in the publication “Les périples de Kalila wa Dimna” (2022). Her ongoing work includes organising a study day in 2023 dedicated to the iconographic journeys of Kalila wa Dimna.

Location: Louvre Abu Dhabi, UAE

Date: 26 March– 21 July 2024

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