Dr Fahmida Suleman

Dr Fahmida Suleman

Fahmida Suleman

Curator, Islamic World

Interests: Islamic Iconography, Shi‘i Material Culture, Textiles and Jewellery from the Middle East and Central Asia, Arts of the Fatimid Period

Exhibitions & Galleries: Wirth Gallery of the Middle East; Indian Ocean (forthcoming)


D.Phil. Islamic Art & Archaeology, University of Oxford, Thesis: The Lion, the Hare and Lustre Ware: Studies in the Iconography of Lustre Ceramics from Fatimid Egypt (969–1171 CE)
M.St. Islamic Art & Archaeology, University of Oxford, Thesis: Cultures of the Indian Ocean: The Architectural History of the Zanzibar Dispensary
Graduate Programme in Islamic Studies and Humanities, Institute of Ismaili Studies
B.A. (Hons), Islamic and Religious Studies, Minor in South Asian Studies, University of Toronto

Fahmida Suleman joined the ROM in 2019 as the Curator of Islamic Art & Culture after over two decades of experience studying and working in the UK. She oversees the permanent and rotating displays in the ROM’s Wirth Gallery of the Middle East. Dr Suleman is responsible for researching, exhibiting and developing the ROM’s growing collection of Islamic art and material culture, the largest collection of its kind in Canada, numbering approximately 8,100 objects and ranging in date from archaeological artefacts from the 700s CE to objects from the present day including modern and contemporary Middle Eastern art. Strengths of the collection lie in the areas of medieval and pre-modern ceramics, glass, metalwork, Qur’ans, illustrated manuscripts, single-page miniatures and arms and armour. The collection also includes significant material from the 18th to the early 20th centuries including Jewish wedding contracts (ketubah), Persian lacquer, jewellery and headdresses, and wooden architectural elements and chests.

Before joining the ROM, Dr Suleman was the Phyllis Bishop Curator for the Modern Middle East at the British Museum for ten years where she significantly developed the modern ethnographic collections and curated several exhibitions such as The Good, the Bad and the Ugly: Fantastic Creatures in Islamic Painting; Adornment & Identity: Jewellery and Costume from Oman; and Life and Sole: Footwear from the Islamic World. Her final project at the British Museum was the installation of a new ground-breaking permanent gallery, the Albukhary Foundation Gallery of the Islamic World. At the ROM, Dr Suleman is working on a number of research projects including a multi-disciplinary exhibition about the Indian Ocean and an investigation of food and hospitality cultures of the Middle East through material culture. She is also collaborating on an ongoing field research project with colleagues at the British Museum and the National Museum of Oman on the tradition of female silversmithing in Dhofar, Southern Oman, which will result in a forthcoming exhibition at the British Museum.

Fahmida is cross-appointed as Assistant Professor at the University of Toronto in the Department of Near and Middle East Civilizations (status only) and the Department of Art History (non-budgetary cross-appointment). She teaches undergraduate level courses on curating the material culture of the Islamic world in galleries and exhibitions and Islamic iconography. She is also a founding co-chair of the Islamic Art and Material Culture Collaborative (IAMCC), a research network based in Toronto that brings together the capacities and resources of the University of Toronto, the Royal Ontario Museum, and the Aga Khan Museum. The aim of the IAMCC is to foster innovative and interdisciplinary research on Islamic art and material culture, support an annual junior and senior fellowship program, host monthly talks and research seminars and present a high-profile annual visiting lecture.

Online links

Select Publications

Fahmida Suleman. ‘Reaching New Heights: Material Culture, Ceremonial and Diplomacy in Fatimid Egypt’, in Image, Artefact, and Text: Canadian Contributions to the Study of Islamic Art and Archaeology, eds. M. Milwright and E. Baboula (Leiden: Brill), forthcoming 2021.

Fahmida Suleman with Ladan Akbarnia, Venetia Porter et al. The Islamic World: A History in Objects (London: Thames & Hudson and British Museum), 2018. [https://thamesandhudson.com/the-islamic-world-a-history-in-objects-9780500480403]

Fahmida Suleman. Textiles from the Middle East and Central Asia: The Fabric of Life (London: Thames & Hudson and British Museum), 2017. [https://thamesandhudson.com/textiles-of-the-middle-east-and-central-asia-9780500519912]

Fahmida Suleman (editor). People of the Prophet’s House: Artistic and Ritual Expressions of Shi‘i Islam (London: Azimuth Editions, Institute of Ismaili Studies and British Museum), 2015 [https://iis.ac.uk/publication/people-prophets-house]

Fahmida Suleman. ‘The Hand of Fatima: In Search of its Origins and Significance’, in People of the Prophet’s House: Artistic and Ritual Expressions of Shi‘i Islam, ed. F. Suleman (London: Azimuth Editions, Institute of Ismaili Studies and British Museum), 2015, pp. 173–187.

Fahmida Suleman. ‘Making Love Not War: The Iconography of the Cockfight in Medieval Egypt’, in Eros and Sexuality in Islamic Art, eds. F. Leoni and M. Natif (Burlington, VT: Ashgate), 2013, pp. 19–42.

Fahmida Suleman. ‘Islamic Art at the British Museum: Strategies and Perspectives’, in Islamic Art and the Museum – Approaches to Art and Archaeology of the Muslim World in the Twenty–First Century, eds. B. Junod, G. Khalil, S. Weber, G. Wolf (London: Saqi Books), 2013, pp. 276–284.

Fahmida Suleman. ‘The Lion, the Hare and Lustre Ware’, in Metalwork and Material Culture in the Islamic World: Art, Craft and Text. Festschrift in Honour of Professor James W. Allan, eds. V. Porter and M. Rosser-Owen (London: IB Tauris), 2012, pp. 379–392.

Fahmida Suleman. ‘The Image of ‘Ali as the Lion of God in Shi‘i Art and Material Culture’, in The Art and Material Culture of Iranian Shiism: Iconography and Religious Devotion in Shi‘i Islam, ed. P. Khosronejad (London: IB Tauris), 2012, pp. 215–232.

Fahmida Suleman with Aude Mongiatti and Nigel Meeks. ‘Beauty and Belief: The Endangered Tradition of Omani Silver Jewellery’, in The British Museum Technical Research Bulletin, Vol. 5 (2011), (London: Archetype Publications), pp. 1–14. [https://www.researchgate.net/publication/304930782_Beauty_and_belief_the_endangered_tradition_of_Omani_silver_jewellery]

Fahmida Suleman (editor). Word of God, Art of Man – the Qur’an and its Creative Expressions. Selected Proceedings from the International Colloquium held in London, 18–21 October 2003 (Oxford: Oxford University Press and Institute of Ismaili Studies), 2007. [https://iis.ac.uk/publication/word-god-art-man-qur-and-its-creative-expressions-selected-proceedings-international]