The Emir from Poland
An exhibition about Wacław Seweryn Rzewuski in the temporary exhibition zone of the Poland Pavilion at Expo 2020 Dubai.
Come and take a journey with us through the life and work of Wacław Seweryn Rzewuski (1784–1831) – a legendary Polish traveller, who blended together two archetypes: that of a Bedouin Emir and that of a knight fighting for his homeland’s independence.
Rzewuski made a spectacular contribution to our knowledge about the traditions that were cultivated for centuries on the Arabian Peninsula. On his travels in the region he documented the life and culture of the desert-dwelling Bedouins. His fascinating memoirs cover the breeds and anatomy of Arabian horses, describe nature, architecture and music, and offer wonderful cartographic sketches of the Peninsula.
Selected illustrations from his manuscript Concerning the Horses of the Orient and Those Originating from Oriental Breeds make up a significant part of the exhibition. We supplemented them with contemporary illustrations drawn in a comic-book style – underscoring the great pop-cultural potential of this extraordinary figure. Indeed, Rzewuski already ignited people’s imaginations back in his own times: portraits were painted and poems were written in his honour, and he was a topic of excited discussion at high-society salons.
In recognition of his devotion to Arab culture Rzewuski was given the title of Emir and the names Abd al-Nishan ("Servant of the Sign") and Taj al-Fakhr ("Crown of Glory"). His strong, lifelong attachment to his homeland, in turn, found its culmination in his fighting in Poland’s defense during the November Uprising of 1830–31, where he perished.
Rzewuski was a man driven by passion, open to the world, with an insatiable thirst for adventure but also a deep love for his country of origin. Getting to know his successive faces helps us discover the sensitivity and complexity of a character truly rooted in old Polish traditions, able to bring together two distant worlds.
The exhibition was created by Stellar Fireworks and Science Now in collaboration with the Adam Mickiewicz Institute, as part of the cultural program organized by the Institute at the Polish Pavilion at Expo 2020 Dubai.
Partners: Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Republic of Poland, National Library of Poland.
The manuscript of Sur les chevaux orientaux et provenant des races orientales (Concerning the Horses of the Orient and Those Originating from Oriental Breeds) by Wacław Seweryn Rzewuski is in the collection of the National Library of Poland and is available via the digital library polona.pl.