Review: The Last Of The Eunuch Guardians At Leighton House Museum

The Guardians, Leighton House Museum ★★★☆☆

Tabish Khan
By Tabish Khan Last edited 28 months ago
Review: The Last Of The Eunuch Guardians At Leighton House Museum The Guardians, Leighton House Museum 3
A long exposure of people coming to visit and worship at the Prophet's Mosque in Medina. Courtesy the artist & The Park Gallery, London

In history Arabic society had a special place for eunuchs and in the 12th century they were deemed trustworthy enough to look after the keys to the prophet Muhammad's burial chamber, but what came as a surprise to us is that this Mamluk lineage still exists and continues to fulfil its function of looking after the Prophet's Mosque in Medina.

These 'Guardians' are the last of their kind as the Saudi Government has decided that this tradition will end with the current crop of elderly keepers of the mosque. As this 800 year tradition is coming to an end, photographer  Adel Quarishi has captured the eight remaining Guardians in large half length portraits, which look back at the viewer from three sides in the gallery space within Leighton House Museum.

The wrinkles and posture of the eight hints that they may not have long left to serve in their professions, and the exhibition notes inform us that three have died since they were photographed in 2013. Yet each photo presents the Guardians standing or sitting proudly in their clerical dress.

Most people, including many Muslims, won't know these people exist so it's a powerful statement to immortalise these men in photographs to commemorate the end of a centuries old tradition. It's also the perfect setting as Leighton House Museum is filled with Arabic stylings in its interior. The relatively small exhibition alone may not be worth making the journey to this venue, but for those who've never visited Leighton House Museum they're in for a double treat.

One of the final eight guardians. Courtesy the artist & The Park Gallery, London

Adel Quraishi's portraits of The Guardians is on at Leighton House Museum, 12 Holland Park Road, W14 8LZ until 29 November. Tickets are £7 for adults, £5 concessions and includes access to the rest of the museum. The Museum is open every day except Tuesdays, from 10-5.30.

Fans of photography may also like a double header over at Science Museum's media space, the wartime images by Lee Miller, another spectacular Wildlife Photographer of the Year, and our most talked about exhibitions for October.

Last Updated 30 October 2015