OSWEGO — SUNY Oswego’s Artswego will be among only five arts organizations nationwide to host groundbreaking performances, campus residencies and community dialogues in the first year of a program aimed at fostering better understanding of cultures throughout the many-hued world of Islam.
The pilot program’s title is “Caravanserai: Places Where Cultures Meet.” Caravanserai traditionally were safe havens for caravans to stop and for travelers to exchange stories around the fire — places where cultures meet.
The first year of the program, opening in October, will bring musicians in the Sufi, ghazal and folk genres of Pakistan and a Pakistani filmmaker to Central New York.
Arts Midwest, a nonprofit regional arts organization, on July 26 formally launched Caravanserai projects at Artswego of SUNY Oswego; the Arts Alliance of Northern New Hampshire in Littleton; FirstWorks in Providence, R.I.; Monmouth University in West Branch, N.J.; and the Myrna Loy Center in Helena, Mont. Arts Midwest has received $1 million in funding from the Doris Duke Foundation for Islamic Art for this cultural exchange program.
“The application process among arts organizations across the country was very competitive,” Artswego Director Mary Avrakotos said. “SUNY Oswego is delighted and honored to have been selected. Artswego plans to offer all of Central New York an opportunity to learn from and contribute to Caravanserai’s open-door invitation to better understanding of Muslim entertainment and cultures.”
Artswego’s partners in the project include WRVO, Oswego City School District, Mexico Central School District, Interfaith Works, Syracuse University’s Hendricks Chapel and several SUNY Oswego offices: the Institute for Global Engagement, the Office of International Education and Programs and the Office of Business and Community Relations.
Among the key events in Central New York’s fall-to-spring Caravanserai:
* In a weeklong residency from Oct. 9 to 15, Qawal Najmuddin Saifuddin & Brothers and Ustad Tari Khan and Ensemble will perform at Oswego High School and Mexico Academy and Central School, speak to a variety of classes at SUNY Oswego and around the region, and take part in informance sessions at Syracuse University’s Hendricks Chapel and SUNY Oswego’s Sheldon Hall ballroom.
Qawwali, traditional Sufi devotional music that expresses human longing for the divine, has gained a worldwide audience. Qawal Najmuddin Saifuddin & Brothers are torchbearers for a tradition dating to the 13th century. Ustad Tari Khan’s name is inseparable from the exhilarating Middle Eastern percussion instrument known as tabla.
* WRVO, the National Public Radio affiliate broadcasting from SUNY Oswego, will host and air a forum on “Contemporary Muslim Expression” Oct. 10 at City Hall Commons in Syracuse. Guests will be Mara Ahmed, a Pakistani-American computer graphic artist; Asma Barlas, director of the Center for the Study of Culture, Race, and Ethnicity of the department of politics at Ithaca College; and Najmuddin Saifuddin.
“WRVO is pleased to partner with Artswego to bring artists from Pakistan to our community and offer opportunities for engagement, understanding and entertainment,” said Fred Vigeant, programming director at WRVO.
* A three-day program in mid-February will feature the award-winning documentary “Made in Pakistan” and opportunities to hear executive producer Ayesha I. Khan.
* In April, Pakistani folksingers Arif Lohar and Sanam Marvi will appear for a week’s residency and performances. Lohar is a popular chimta (a tong-like instrument sheathed in small cymbals) artist and singer who has performed from London’s Wembley Arena to the Asian Games in China. With young singer Sanam Marvi, who performs in the Sufi, ghazal and folk genres, the two bring an evening of Punjabi and Urdu pop/folk blends and a warm musical spirit.
For more information about Caravanserai, contact SUNY Oswego’s Artswego at 315-312-4581. Public performances will be announced, and tickets will be available at http://tickets.oswego.edu. Information about the national program, including resource materials, is available at http://www.caravanserai-arts.org.