Fahmida Suleman joined the Royal Ontario Museum (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 with her colleague, Dr Clemens Reichel. 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.
Dr. Suleman teaches undergraduate level courses on curating the material culture of the Islamic world in galleries and exhibitions and Islamic iconography at NMC and the Department of Art History. She gained her Hons. BA in Islamic and Religious Studies at U of T (St George campus). She later obtained both her Master’s (thesis title: Cultures of the Indian Ocean: The Architectural History of the Zanzibar Dispensary) and Doctoral degrees (thesis title: The Lion, the Hare and Lustre Ware: Studies in the Iconography of Lustre Ceramics from Fatimid Egypt, 969–1171 CE) in Islamic Art & Archaeology at the University of Oxford. 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. 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 is working on a number of research projects at the ROM 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.
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.