A legendary poet whose work transcends time, this is Aga Khan Museum’s new exhibit ‘Rumi’ that you need to check out

The Aga Khan Museum’s latest exhibition, Rumi, uncovers the life and timeless legacy of the legendary poet from past to present. (Courtesy: Sehaj Goyal)


He’s a legendary poet whose messages and writings have travelled through time, holding intricate meanings to members of society and culture today. Rumi is a 13th century Sufi poet whose work can now be viewed at Toronto’s Aga Khan Museum. 

Rumi is a new exhibition that focuses on the life and timeless legacy of the global literary icon. The poet remains one of the most revered, best selling authors in North America. Now, this exhibition is celebrating the enduring impact of his art on the 750th anniversary of his passing. 

In a virtual interview on Wednesday, Curator Dr. Michael Chagnon outlined the three sections of this exhibition.

“We look at what we call The Historical Rumi which is Rumi as a biographical figure. We look at The Visual Rumi, how artists respond to Rumi’s poetry over time and then Rumi in Translation, how Rumi was transformed over time into a global icon, but also the transformation of his words through translation,” Chagnon said.

“In each of these sections, we’ve also commissioned a brand new large scale installation work by Canadian artists that respond to each of these themes. So in a way, the aim is to bridge past and present in each of these sections, so that you’re not just journeying through a timeline, you’re actually experiencing both life and legacy at the same time,” he added.

In addition, he describes how Rumi is acknowledged as a cultural icon in our society today.

“Today, Rumi is almost inescapable in our pop culture. In social media, we see performers regularly referring to Rumi in various ways, whether it’s Brad Pitt having a poem by Rumi in translation tattooed on his bicep or if it’s singers like Coldplay or Madonna who references Rumi either in their songs or in their videos,” Chagnon said.

“Also in social media, the fact that Rumi’s poetry and translation circulates widely as sort of inspirational quotes and quotes that encourage positivity and connection, and deeper spirituality,” he added.

He emphasized that the purpose of this exhibition is to look at how Rumi, a 13th century poet born on the border between Tajikistan and Afghanistan, went on to becoming a global phenomenon who is widely recognized, despite people not knowing who he actually is. 

This exhibition aims to go beyond the surface level of Rumi and uncover his truths and ideologies on life and love. 

Recently, Now Toronto spoke to the Director of Collections and Public Programs Dr. Sascha Priewe at the Aga Khan Museum and he shared what the exhibition hopes to achieve.

“Rumi is, in many ways, he’s found everywhere, and so, we are connecting this story back to his biography that might not be as well known. So, we’re trying to tell different layers of the RUMI story. And today, as I said, you see him everywhere, but very often his poetry, what we know of his poetry is disconnected from the person. We are trying to bring these pieces back together in his exhibition,” Priewe explained.

When it comes to what viewers can learn and gain from this exhibition, Priewe and Chagnon say visitors will leave with a deeper appreciation and understanding of Rumi.

“We hope that visitors will go away from the show understanding not only who Rumi was, what his legacy has become, but also go away with a feeling of understanding why he still matters today to get that sense of love, betterment of the self, of humanity and religious harmony that these are messages needed in the world right now and that they come to a point of reflection, rooted in the work of Rumi,” Priewe said.

“My hope is that visitors will have a deeper appreciation for Rumi as a once living figure…to really, in a sense, think about these quotes, these passages of poetry that people know and love so much and to understand where they come from on a deeper level, and hopefully, appreciate the context in which they were written,” Chagnon said.

Visitors can experience Rumi at the Aga Khan Museum until October 1. 

Tickets are $20 for adults, $10 for children and $15 for seniors.

For students aged 14 to 17 years old or post secondary students, tickets are $12.  

For a list of other events, check out the events calendar.

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