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Sultan Somjee

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Short Biography of an Ismaili Scholar

After I completed my first degree in Product Design my interest shifted from designing products to what stories were told in products - about people's lives and how they reflected on the individuals, their families, ethnic and faith groups and in general on the human society. Hence my MA and PhD lead me into the study of art and material culture. I see material culture traversing over almost all social disciplines. In short material culture is the prevalence of the presence of the object in fashioning our social and art world.

After graduation I continued in the same line from 1972 to 2002 learning, researching, teaching, publishing and curating exhibitions on material culture. The objects projected many contexts: culture, history, identity, art and craft, migration and settlement, religion and oral traditions, dialogue and community building and even peace and conflict resolution traditions. For almost ten years I worked on community participatory exhibitions so the owners of the artifacts were also co-curators of the exhibitions with me. My inspirations came from ethnographic and folk museums where I saw the sights and heard the sounds in objects of daily use in ordinary folk's lives.

Things made my life: My career, tastes in clothing and furnishing, my life style and I think even my world view has been molded by things. I came to realize that Material Culture, a discipline in the Social Sciences, draws on artifacts to tell stories combining facts with myths, geography with history, art with politics, poetry with traditions across generations and cultures turning stories into legends. The ten steps in Stories from Things are written out of this experience.


His famous weblog "beadbai" is full of good source on Ismaili Shias: