Zawaya Presents "Arab Artists: Their Words and Works"

By Pasquini, Elaine | Washington Report on Middle East Affairs, May 2004 | Go to article overview

Zawaya Presents "Arab Artists: Their Words and Works"


Pasquini, Elaine, Washington Report on Middle East Affairs


Always a national leader in the fields of art, music and literature, San Francisco is home to an abundance of talented ArabAmerican artists, writers and performers. A Feb. 15 reception at the Catharine Clark Gallery on Geary Street provided Bay Area residents a unique opportunity to meet several of these artists and view their work.

San Mateo-based Zawaya, a non-governmental organization dedicated to promoting Arab arts and culture, sponsored and organized the show, entitled, 'Arab Artists: Their Words and Works."

Arab cartoonists were well represented at the event. Algerian-American Khalil Bendib discussed his latest editorial cartoon book. Egyptian artist, illustrator, and cartoonist Hassan Fedawy displayed his "Cartoons of the Middle East," while in a small side gallery Fayeq Oweis gave a Power Point presentation on the works of the late Palestinian cartoonist Naji Al-Ali.

Beautiful watercolors titled "Old Doors with Calligraphy" by artist Nahda Balaa adorned the walls of the gallery, along with "Fusion of Arabic and Far Eastern Spirituality" acrylics by Lebanese-American artist Yasser Dib.

Performance artists Denmo Ibrahim and James Asher entertained the crowd with their interview-based work, "In the Shadows of 9/11." And as the afternoon lapsed into evening, Yusra Benhalim read poetry and Saed Muhssen and Vince Delgado played classical Arabic music on the oud and percussion instruments.

Alice Nashashibi displayed and offered for sale beautiful Palestinian embroidery made by women in rural Palestinian villages in the occupied West Bank to supplement their family income. The craft has been handed down for generations from mother to daughter.

Zawaya's board of directors is a virtual who's who of the vibrant Northern California Arab-American community. Officers and board members include Nabila Mango, Haya Shawa Benhalim, Shahdan Shazly, Jess Ghannam, Ferial Kardosh, Duraid Musleh, Maher Sabry, Margaret Titus, Fayeq Oweis, Youmna Chlala and Alice Nashashibi.

Zawaya president Nabila Mango has been one of the Bay Area's most energetic and leading activists for many years. In 1999, the professor of Arabic at San Mateo College founded ASWAT, the San Francisco Bay Area's only community ensemble performing classical and folk Arabic music. The Palestinian-born Mango is a recipient of the Arab Educational and Cultural Award for outstanding contributions in arts and education. For more information visit the Web site or e-mail .

Thousands Celebrate Eid al-Adha

Bay Area Islamic groups celebrated Eid alAdha (The Festival of the Sacrifice) on Feb. 1 at the Henry J. Kaiser Convention Center in Oakland. More than 5,000 people from around the Bay Area attended the all-day event. Festivalgoers browsed information booths featuring Islamic books and publications, as well as booths offering clothing, jewelry, health and personal care products. Delicious food, including home-cooked dishes, was also available.

Following the khutbah (sermon) and prayer service, the prayer rugs were rolled up to make room in the large auditorium for children's activities. Huge slides and a plastic fire truck were inflated as scores of children lined up to jump and slide on the giant toys.

The Eid al-Adha service and activities were a special treat for nine-year-old Iraqi Saleh Khalaf, who arrived in Oakland on Nov. 10 (see March 2004 Washington Report, p. 24). Still recovering from the wounds he suffered from an explosion in his schoolyard in Nasiriyah and awaiting further surgery at Oakland's Children's Hospital, Saleh was able to join in the children's activities, with his anxious father keeping close watch over him.

Eid al-Adha occurs on the tenth day of the Islamic month Dhul-Hijjah, the last month of the Islamic calendar. It commemorates the willingness of the Prophet Ibrahim to sacrifice his son Isma'il in response to a command from God, and God's mercy in substituting a lamb for Isma'il. …

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