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Liese Hilgeman
Middle Eastern and Islamic Studies Program

George Vlahakis
University Communications

Last modified: Tuesday, January 22, 2008

Annual Middle Eastern festival showcasing culture and artistic traditions to be Feb. 4-April 20

Jan. 22, 2008

BLOOMINGTON, Ind. -- This year's Middle Eastern Arts Festival again will feature a vivid array of music and dance from the region, as well as exhibits, museum events and presentations by artists and scholars. Most festival events, which run from Feb. 4 through April 20, require no admission fee. All are open to the public.

Events will include a concert of the music of Egypt and Turkey by Bloomington's own world music ensemble Salaam, an Afghan kite making workshop for families, an Arabic translation seminar and two evenings of dance performances.

Other highlights will include "Objects of War," a video art show by Beirut artist Lamia Joreige at the School of Fine Arts Gallery, and an exhibit of Coptic textiles dating from the third to 12th centuries at the IU Art Museum.

The festival will begin with the Feb. 4 opening for Joreige's show at the SoFA Gallery, 1201 E. Seventh St. She has chronicled the Lebanese War since 2000 through a series of video works.

Four parts of her ongoing series will be shown. They present personal narratives in the form of testimonials. Each person chooses an object, ordinary or unusual, which serves as a starting point for his or her story. While helping to create a collective memory, the stories show the impossibility of telling a single history of this war. The exhibition will run through Feb. 16.

Here is a review of the festival's other events:

  • "Selections of Middle Eastern Manuscripts from the Lilly Library Collection" will run Feb. 6-20 at the Lilly Library, 1200 E. Seventh St. The exhibition will showcase examples of early calligraphic manuscripts in Arabic as well as contemporary literary translations, manuscripts and books, including a work in Hebrew by Israeli writer Amos Oz. Hours will be 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. Mondays through Fridays and 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. on Saturdays.
  • Two noted translators of Arabic literature -- William Hutchins and Marilyn Booth -- on Feb. 7 will discuss their working methods and experiences in translating from the Arabic language into English. Their talk, about the challenges and success of capturing a text's essential meaning while retaining the original author's distinctive voice, will begin at 4 p.m. at IU's Lilly Library.

Hutchins, a professor in the Philosophy and Religion Department at Appalachian State University, received a NEA grant to support the translation from Arabic of The Seven Veils of Seth, a novel by Libyan author Ibrahim al-Koni and has published more than 50 works of literature in Arabic. Booth, associate professor of comparative and world literature at the University of Illinois, has translated The Open Door by Latifa al-Zayyat, Somaya Ramadan's The Leaves of Narcissus and Hoda Barakat's The Tiller of the Waters.

  • Salaam will perform at 8 p.m. on Feb. 9 at the Buskirk-Chumley Theater, 114 E. Kirkwood Ave. The concert will feature the music of Egypt and Turkey, presented in the rich stylistic variations found in classical, religious and secular forms. Tickets will cost $15 for adults and $10 for students and seniors.

Salaam -- named for the Arabic word for peace -- has been together since 1993. The group has played with international artists including Real World recording artists The Master Musicians of Jajouka, Grammy Award winner Youssou N'Dour, Moroccan Gnawa musician Hassan Hakmoun, Iraqi Maqam master Hamid El-Saadi and Turkish multi-instrumentalist Emin S. Saba.

  • A family craft workshop in Afghan kite making will begin at 1:30 p.m. on Feb. 9 at the Mathers Museum of World Cultures, 416 N. Indiana Ave. Those already familiar with The Kite Runner, a novel by Afghanistani American author Khaled Hosseini that has been made into a film, will appreciate learning about the history of kite making and kite fighting in Afghanistan.

Families will make and decorate simple kites and be able to view excerpts of a documentary film, Kabul Transit, which shows contemporary kite flying in Afghanistan's capital city. They will have the option of exhibiting their creations on the "Wall of Kites" or perhaps test their kites' flying abilities (weather permitting).

Dancer with Basket of Pomegranates

Coptic (Egypt), 5th century A.D. Dancer with Basket of Pomegranates

Print-Quality Photo

  • Since Jan. 16, selections of Coptic textiles have been on display at the IU Art Museum, 1133 E. Seventh St. Hours are 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Tuesdays through Saturdays and noon to 5 p.m. on Sundays.

Examples of Coptic art in IU's collection date from the third to the 12th centuries, spanning late Roman, early Byzantine, and early Islamic times. The selected Coptic textiles currently on view were found in shallow burials and survived the centuries due to the dry Egyptian climate.

These fragile woven remnants reveal the extraordinary mixture of traditions that influenced the Coptic artisans. Though mostly fragmentary, their bold pictorial designs, saturated colors and rich textures show a vernacular art characterized by a rustic, lively, and robust style portraying pictorial motifs of the Greco-Roman, to hieroglyphic figures of Egyptian lineage and Eastern motifs from Syrian and Persian fabrics.

  • The IU Art Museum also will present guided tours of its collection of Egyptian, early Mesopotamian and Islamic art at 3 p.m. and 4 p.m. on Feb. 10.
  • "Concert: JAZZ at the J," featuring Steve Peskoff on jazz guitar at 7 p.m. on Feb. 17 at the Jewish Community Center, 6701 Hoover Rd., in Indianapolis. The event is being presented by the JCC, as part of their jazz concert series, in conjunction with IU's Robert A. and Sandra S. Borns Jewish Studies Program and Institute for Jewish Culture and the Arts.

Peskoff is on the faculty of the Rimon School of Jazz and Contemporary Music, Israel's largest independent professional music school for the advanced study of contemporary music. His discography includes the Julia Feldman Ensemble's debut album, "Words Are Worlds (A Tribute to Billie Holiday)," released in 2006 on the Israeli label Hed Arzi.

  • A concert, "Choral music of the Middle East: Behold, the Bridegroom cometh: chants from Holy Week in the Lebanese and Syrian tradition," at 8 p.m. on March 29 at St. Paul's Catholic Center, 1413 E. 17th St. The All Saints Antiochian Orthodox Christian Choir, under the direction of Richard Barrett, will present an evening concert of liturgical music from the Middle East.

The program will highlight music from the Syrian and Lebanese traditions. Meditative and celebratory selections drawn from Holy Week and Easter services exemplify how this music became an integral and functionally practical part of Orthodox ritual. While the traditional liturgical languages for the Orthodox in the Middle East are Greek and Arabic, selections will also be performed English.

  • "Mosaic II: A Tapestry of Middle Eastern Dance," two evenings of dances from Egypt, Saudi Arabia, Lebanon and Turkey, will begin at 7:30 p.m. on April 4 and 5 in the John Waldron Auditorium, 122 S. Walnut St. Tickets each night will be $15 for adults and $10 for students and seniors. Children age 3 and under are free.

Bloomington's Katya Faris will be joined by Mohamed Shahin of Cairo, Alexandria and Leila Aziz of Chicago and Margaret Lion and Ashley Donaldson of Bloomington. They will perform Egyptian folkdances as well as Shahin's choreographed women's dances and Raqs Sharki.

  • A concert by the International Vocal Ensemble will begin at 2 p.m.on April 20 in Auer Hall of the the IU Jacobs School of Music. The concert will include selections of Azeri music prepared with the assistance of Aida Huseynova, a visiting Fulbright scholar and associate professor of musicology at Baku Music Academy. Lyrical, cheerful and humoristic, these folk songs reflect an important part of Azerbaijani music and culture. Dearly treasured, they are performed on various occasions and known in many arrangements.

The festival is made possible by the support of Aramco Services Co., All Saints Antiochian Orthodox Christian Church, IU's Institute for Advanced Study, the IU Art Museum, the International Vocal Ensemble, the Jacobs School of Music, the Jewish Community Center, IU's Robert A. and Sandra S. Borns Jewish Studies Program and Institute for Jewish Culture and the Arts; Katya Faris Productions, the IU Department of Folklore and Ethnomusicology, the Lilly Library, the Mathers Museum of World Cultures, the IU Middle Eastern and Islamic Studies Program, St. Paul's Catholic Center and the SoFA Gallery of Henry Radford Hope School of Fine Arts.

For further information, contact the Middle Eastern and Islamic Studies Program as 812-856-3977 or or visit its Web site at