Poetic Voices of the Muslim World
December 15, 2016 – Spring 2017
Please note that while City Lore Gallery will open for special events, City Lore Gallery will be closed during normal viewing hours to install Poetic Voices of the Muslim World from November 14, 2016 – December 15, 2016.
City Lore Gallery welcomes Poetic Voices of the Muslim World, a multi-year initiative including programs and performances presented against the backdrop of a traveling exhibition and companion website. On December 15th at 6pm, there will be a lively exhibition opening that is free and open to the public.
Presentations by scholars, poets, and musicians celebrate varied styles and types of poetry of rare power and beauty — including ancient oral traditions still practiced today, literary forms that have flourished for more than a millennium, and contemporary poetic arts. Developed by the national poetry library and literary center Poets House and City Lore, Poetic Voices of the Muslim World explores an art form central to the lives of Muslim men and women around the world.
Since 2013, over 300,000 public library visitors in eleven different cities across the United States have viewed the traveling exhibit or attended programs and events related to Poetic Voices of the Muslim World.
The lushly-illustrated, vibrant exhibition, designed by Ralph Appelbaum Associates (RAA), features arresting photography and calligraphic masterworks, as well as the work of poets ranging from Rumi (the best-selling poet in America) to the well-known contemporary poet Adonis. The large visual elements comprise nine printed panels, each measuring four feet by six feet, with the exhibition extending to 48 feet when fully displayed in each of the libraries.
The exhibition at City Lore also features works by the late artist Samina Quraeshi: artist, designer, and educator dedicated to creating greater cultural understanding of her native Pakistan. Artwork inspired by Islamic poetry and created by K-12 students in the A Reverence for Words Institute: Understanding Muslim Cultures through the Arts will also be displayed.
The exhibition highlights the poetic traditions from four major language areas — Arabic, Persian, Turkish, and Urdu — and introduces poetry from Asia, Africa, and diasporic communities in the United States.
“Poetry is the most beloved art form throughout the Muslim world,” said Lee Briccetti, Poets House Executive Director. “Poetry is at the heart of many Islamic cultures and holds a key to these cultures. In fact, poetry is woven into the very fabric of Islamic identity. This exhibition and its accompanying programs turn to that art form to explore the history and social fabric of a variety of Muslim societies.”
Poetry also plays a large role in shaping popular culture, as seen in Abu Dhabi where an American Idol-type Arabic language television program thrills audiences as contestants perform their poems before judges while viewers vote on mobile phones for their favorite poet. Poetry plays a central role in all aspects of Muslim life. In these cultures, the many forms of poetry provide the language to speak of one’s beloved, tell the stories of epic heroes, honor the departed, celebrate marriage, express insights of the moment, speak to God and, often, shape a way of life.
“In the same way that American movies and popular culture have created pathways to understanding the U.S. for those abroad, we can find insight into these varied cultures through the poetries of the Muslim world,” said Steve Zeitlin, Founding Director of City Lore. “These programs provide new ways for Americans to engage with the Muslim world through the interpretation of poetry as they explore what poetry tells us about the history, social fabric and worldviews of a variety of Muslim societies.”
Presented in partnership with the American Library Association, the two-year national initiative is funded through the National Endowment for the Humanities’ (NEH) Bridging Cultures program, with additional support from the Doris Duke Foundation for Islamic Art and New York State Council on the Arts. For a complete list of programs at each library and more information on Poetic Voices of the Muslim World please visit www.pvmw.org.