Arabic Studies students enjoy “A Taste of Morocco”


Painted cedar ceiling (64.3) and colored glass windows (46.1.1-82) in the foyer at Shangri La, both of which were commissioned from a Moroccan workshop in 1937. Also visible is a c. 1900 Egyptian or Syrian hanging lamp (54.6.1-4) © 2003, David Franzen.

Students enrolled in an innovative Arabic language studies program at O‘ahu’s Campbell High School came to Shangri La on May 12 for A Taste of Morocco, an event co-hosted by Shangri La, OneWorldNow!  and the Pacific Asian Affairs Council. The students toured Shangri La, then enjoyed an afternoon of traditional Moroccan music, dance and food. They were especially interested in the colorful, intricately painted wooden ceilings in Shangri La’s foyer and living room, which were crafted in 1937 by artisans in Rabat, Morocco.

Adly Mirza, Arabic instructor at Campbell High School

In fact, some of the students will be traveling to Rabat this July for intensive Arabic language and leadership training.  While in Morocco, they’ll live with host families, continue their Arabic language studies, learn about Moroccan art and culture and participate in community service projects with Moroccan youth. For many of these students, the summer program will be their first experience abroad, so we were especially pleased to be able to introduce them to some of the elements of traditional Moroccan culture they’ll experience this summer.

Student speaker Nick Troup at Shangri La

Campbell High School junior Nick Troup, a two-year veteran of the Arabic Studies program, spoke at the event.  He traveled to Qatar as part of the summer program in 2011, and the experience was life-changing. “Going to Qatar totally smudged out any preconceptions I had at the time. I learned really quickly that people are pretty similar regardless of where you are in the world. There are several things that are universal—for example, music. I connected in ways I didn’t expect,” he said, reflecting on his trip.

The travel–study program is organized by OneWorldNow!, an award-winning global leadership program for underserved high school students. The Seattle-based organization expanded to O‘ahu in 2010 through a partnership with the Pacific Asian Affairs Council and support from Qatar Foundation International.  In addition to the program at Campbell High, OneWorldNow! is organizing an intensive two-week (June 17–29, 2012) Arabic language camp for high school students at the University of Hawai‘i at Mānoa.

Kirstin Hayden (second from left), executive director of OneWorld Now! and Campbell High Students enrolled in the 2012 Arabic Studies program

Diverse Muslim Voices Exchange at Shangri La

On April 4–5, 2012, 22 emerging documentary filmmakers, television producers and members of the Independent Television Service (ITVS) gathered at Shangri La as part of the Diverse Muslim Voices Initiative funded by the Doris Duke Foundation for Islamic Arts’ Building Bridges Program.

Convening participants in front of the Playhouse at Shangri La

Award-winning documentary filmmaker Musa Syeed (Valley of Saints, Bronx Princess, A Son’s Sacrifice) opened the meeting with a talk on media portrayals of Islam and Muslims in the United States today. Of Kashmiri descent, Syeed  grew up in Indiana, which made him adept at seeing cultural issues from a variety of nuanced perspectives.

Next, the emerging filmmakers got a chance to pitch their latest projects to representatives from major funding organizations—among them Orlando Bagwell, director of JustFilms media content fund at the Ford Foundation; Ryan Harrington, director of documentary programming for the Tribeca Film Institute; Leslie Fields-Cruz, vice president of operations and programs for the National Black Programming Consortium; and Sapana Sakya, public media director at the Center for Asian American Media. The experts provided valuable insight and feedback, as well as pointers about marketing, partnerships, and funding.

Here are just a few of the great projects presented at the meeting:

Heavy Metal Islam, a film by Jed Rothstein, was originally envisioned as a documentary about the heavy metal music scene in Egypt. In 2008, midway through filming, Egypt’s Arab Spring erupted and the film became a story about a revolution.

Two Children of the Red Mosque, a film by Hemal Trivedi and Mohammed Ali Naqvi, examines the very different lives of two children enrolled in the Red Mosque madrassa, one of Pakistan’s most notorious institutions.

Filmmaker Idris Abdul-Zahir pitching his film project Iladelph Break Boy to the panel

Five Broken Cameras, a film by Emad Burnat, chronicles five years of West Bank protests and the extreme difficulties of everyday life in Palestine through the eyes and experiences of a Palestinian photographer and his family.

Iladelph Break Boy, a film by Idris Abdul-Zahir and Usame Tunagur, follows an African-American Muslim from Philadelphia who achieves international fame as a break dancer, but then must return home and redefine his life.

Islam on the Inside, a film by Justin Mashouf, documents the experiences of three Muslim converts transitioning out of incarceration on the Southside of Chicago.

Convening participants departing Shangri La following a fruitful day of dialogue via the Mughal Garden at Shangri La

Mashouf reflected on the convening: “Coming from a television background in LA, where documentary concepts spark, fizzle, and are replaced in an instant, I often find the task of producing sincere stories about Muslims to be impossible. The Diverse Muslim Voices Exchange allowed us an opportunity to better produce these stories and to share moments of solidarity with one another as we face many of the same challenges.”