Suleman, Fahmida

Curator of the Arts and Cultures

Department of Art History

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Dr. Fahmida Suleman is Curator of the Islamic World collections at the Royal Ontario Museum (ROM). She is responsible for researching, exhibiting, and developing the ROM’s outstanding collection of Islamic art and material culture, the largest collection of its kind in Canada, numbering over 8,000 objects that range in date from the early medieval period to the present day, including modern and contemporary works of art. Over a third of the collections originate from Iran and Central Asia including noteworthy excavated finds from the port city of Siraf, the Mahidasht Valley in western Iran, and Ghubeyra in southern Iran. Highlights of the ROM’s Persianate collections include medieval and pre-modern ceramics, glass, metalwork, Qur’ans, illustrated manuscripts, single-page paintings, and arms and armour. The collection also includes significant material from the 18th to the early 20th centuries including Jewish wedding contracts (ketubbot), Persian lacquer, and Central Asian jewellery.

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 including 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.

Dr Suleman’s current research interests focus on modern and contemporary female artists of the Islamic world, textiles and jewellery from the Middle East and Central Asia, and Shi‘i material culture. She was lead curator for the ROM’s exhibition, Unmasking the Pandemic: From Personal Protection to Personal Expression (2022), which allowed her to acquire and display a series of painted Shahnama COVID masks by Iranian artist Yazdan Saadi depicting the seven trials of Rustam. Currently, she is lead curator for the upcoming exhibition Being and Belonging (2023), which will feature the works of 25 female artists from across the Islamic world. She is cross-appointed as Assistant Professor at the University of Toronto in the Departments of Near and Middle East Civilizations (status only) and Art History (non-budgetary cross-appointment), where she teaches undergraduate 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 ROM, and the Aga Khan Museum by hosting cross-disciplinary fellowships and programs.


Selected publications include:

Fahmida Suleman. “Reaching New Heights: Material Culture, Ceremonial and Diplomacy in Fatimid Egypt,” in Made for the Eye of One Who Sees: Canadian Contributions to the Study of Islamic Art and Archaeology, eds. M. Milwright and E. Baboula (Montreal-Kingston and Toronto: McGill-Queens University Press and ROM, forthcoming 2022).

Fahmida Suleman with Ladan Akbarnia, Venetia Porter et al. The Islamic World: A History in Objects (London: Thames & Hudson and British Museum, 2018).

Fahmida Suleman. Textiles from the Middle East and Central Asia: The Fabric of Life (London: Thames & Hudson and British Museum, 2017).

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).

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), 173–187.

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), 215–232.