|February Brings "Voices of Middle Eastern Women" to Davidson
February 02, 2010
by Kelly Beggs
|One of Helen Karam's paintings "Loneliness in Red."
Davidson College is sponsoring an interdisciplinary series of events throughout February that will prompt participants to reexamine their perceptions of Middle Eastern women.
The series, titled "Voices of Middle Eastern Women: Women's Lives in Arts and Culture," will assert that no single voice can speak for women of the Middle East. Many do.
The "Voices" events, which include presentations and panel discussions by several Middle Eastern scholars from Davidson College and other institutions, will culminate in a production of Heather Raffo's play Nine Parts of Desire. Associate Professor of Theatre Sharon Green selected the play to stimulate an interdisciplinary conversation, and Davidson's academic community responded enthusiastically.
"It's exciting to have the option to embed a production in a larger dialogue on a set of issues," Green said. "So many people are ready, willing and able to jump in with us."
Events leading up to the production are the product of collaboration among the art, Arabic, history, and religion departments, as well as the Dean Rusk International Studies Program at Davidson.
Chris Alexander, director of the Dean Rusk International Studies Program, said "‘Interdisciplinary' is a powerful part of our vocabulary now. The involvement of constituencies outside the theatre department will maximize the impact of the play on campus. Our hope is that people who take part will come away with a much more nuanced appreciation for the variety of experience of Middle Eastern women."
Assistant Professor of Arabic Rebecca Joubin said, "The broad scope of activities will offer a broad perspective on a commonly misunderstood and ideologically fueled topic."
There is no charge to attend any of the events leading up to the production. For more information, call 704-894-2440.
An exhibit of artwork by Helen Karam will initiate the month's activities. Karam, an acclaimed Lebanese artist whose paintings express concern for feminist issues and human rights, will come to Davidson from Beirut to attend the opening of the exhibit, titled "Loneliness in Red." The opening will be Tuesday, Feb. 2, in the Cunningham Theatre Center, with a reception for the artist beginning at 7:30 p.m.
Other activities during the month include:
• Thursday, February 4: To expand upon the themes of the art exhibit, Lisa Pollard, professor of history and co-coordinator of Middle East Studies at UNC-Wilmington, will give a lecture on "Middle Eastern Women Between Fantasy and Reality" beginning at 7:30 p.m. in the Smith 900 Room of Alvarez College Union.
• Thursday, February 11: Assistant Professor of Arabic Rebecca Joubin will join scholars Jacquelene Brinton, visiting assistant professor of religion at Davidson; Joyce Dalsheim, professor of anthropology at UNCC; and Kathryn Johnson, professor of religious studies and director of the Islamic Studies Interdisciplinary Program at UNCC, for a panel discussion on what it means to be a woman in the Middle East. Their discussion will begin at 7:30 p.m. in Tyler-Tallman Hall of Sloan Music Center.
February 17-21: "Voices" will conclude with productions of Nine Parts of Desire from February 17-21. There will be a post-show discussion with Director Sharon Green and the cast following the February 18 performance. The cast includes Cea Rubin '13, Ananta Bangdiwala '10, Tianna Butler '13, Christa Johnson '12, Dolly Olushola '12, Mel Mendez '13, Elinor Landess '10, Megan Miller '10, and Professor of English Cynthia Lewis.
The play presents a montage of monologues to depict the experiences of nine women, eight Iraqi and one Iraqi-American. Green said, "We have this monolithic notion of Middle Eastern women, but Raffo intends with this play for the audience to question their stereotypes of what Middle Eastern women look like, what they talk about, who they are, what they love, and how they live."
The play focuses on asserting perspectives that have been traditionally excluded from the region's narrative. "It's not didactic, and it's not polemic, though," said Green. "It doesn't take a specific political position. It suggests the way in which stories of women have been erased in the broader media coverage of what's gone on in Iraq."
Ananta Bangdiwala, '10, who plays the role of Layal, said, "The characters in this play are based on women that Heather Raffo met or heard of during her visits to Iraq. While no character is based exactly on one real person, the stories they tell are not contrived but actually represent real issues facing women in Iraq. This window into their lives forces the audience to listen to an individual on the other side, which is a crucial step in breaking barriers."
The show will begin at 7:30 p.m. from February 17-20, and at 2 p.m. on February 21, all in the Barber Theater of Cunningham Theatre Center. Tickets are $8 for general admission, $5 for faculty and staff, and $4 for students. They are available by phone from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. weekdays at 704-894-2135, or online any time at www.davidson.edu/tickets.
Davidson is a highly selective independent liberal arts college for 1,800 students located 20 minutes north of Charlotte in Davidson, N.C. Since its establishment in 1837 by Presbyterians, the college has graduated 23 Rhodes Scholars and is consistently regarded as one of the top liberal arts colleges in the country. Through The Davidson Trust, the college became the first liberal arts institution in the nation to replace loans with grants in all financial aid packages, giving all students the opportunity to graduate debt-free. Davidson competes in NCAA athletics at the Division I level, and a longstanding Honor Code is central to student life at the college.