Expect a rich and evocative evening of poetry and music from two Lebanese American artists at the top of their form, when poet/performance artist/playwright Elmaz Abinader makes her debut at the Levantine Center. She will be joined by returning musician-vocalist Tony Khalife and master percussionist Alex Spurkel. Elmaz Abinader's new collection of poetry, This House, My Bones, has been nominated for a Pushcart Prize. "Elmaz Abinader is a poet fiercely committed to the world's beauty, to history, to lost voices and the people she loves." —David Mura
Says Patricia Smith (winner of the 2013 Lenore Marshal Poetry Prize) "This House, My Bones is a gorgeously scripted chronicle that probes the collective heart and the countries we inhabit when we dare to speak out loud. There's an insistent rhythm in these stanzas, a lyricism of light and lineage stamped with the undeniable signature of a poet at the height of her craft. Savor these poems, and be lifted by their music." More about This House, My Bones. Listen to the poet. Listen to the music. More tunes.
Tickets $18 general, $15 members, $12 students. Seating limited, RSVPs strongly advised, call 323.413.2001.
By Dick Platkin and Jeff Warner *
Friends of Middle Eastern and North African cultures, we are grateful for your support. As we come to the end of another year we wish you very Happy Holidays and a brighter, more peaceful 2015. Thank you for your friendship, encouragement and participation, and your interest in making the Levantine Cultural Center the premiere forum in presenting a vast repertoire of exciting performances, interesting exhibitions, and relevant and timely lectures.
Below you'll find a breakdown of the more than 69 public programs we presented in 2014.
Since 2001, the Levantine Cultural Center has earned its reputation as a welcoming haven where thousands of people-whether they come through our doors, or watch our events online-have the opportunity to become acquainted with some the world's most engaging words, images and music, as well as to engage with the plethora of complex issues facing the region...and thus the world.
By presenting artists and musicians, authors and poets, thinkers and philosophers, the Levantine Cultural Center strives to demystify the rich and rewarding cultures of the Middle East and North Africa, and to introduce them to the American mainstream. Our goal is as it ever was: to showcase the region's arts and cultures, and to abrade the corrosive effects of cultural and political misunderstanding and mistrust through the beauty and power of arts and letters.
Our vision is to extend our impact by connecting even more people, and to help realize that dream, we are thrilled to advise you of our plan, for what many would consider a rebirth, for a newer and larger home, one that is more conducive to fulfilling our mission. Many of you know that the Levantine Cultural Center outgrew its current space a long time ago. To continue our meaningful work with more programs for a growing community, we must expand both our facility and our staff.
Therefore, with excited determination, we are embarking on a capital campaign to facilitate, concretely, our ability to serve with distinction one of the largest Middle Eastern diaspora communities in the world. To continue as the only truly progressive and inclusive center for Middle Eastern and North African cultures, we seek to raise $1 million to ensure that as individuals who care about peace and progress, we will have a center—a markaz—that empowers both Middle Easterners and non-Middle Easterners to connect, to unite and to inform greater Los Angeles of the marvels and humanities of the region.
We welcome your continued support.
2014: Our Year in Review
Art (6 exhibitions)
War and People: Art, Exile and the Middle East
a new group exhibit explores the affects of war and exile in diaspora
Out of Egypt: Master Painted Mohamed Khedr exhibition
Fast Forward: A Talk on Arab and Iranian Typography, with Maece Seirafi and Pouya Jahanshahi
Dorood: New Art From Iran exhibition
Ramsey Chahine: the Poison is the Cure exhibition
By Jordan Elgrably
Following the dissolution of the Ottoman Empire and the end of the Second World War, the map of the Middle East and North Africa has been rewritten by colonialism, war and internecine conflict.
Whether the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, the 1980-1988 war between Iraq and Iran, the first and second Gulf War in Iraq, the invasions of Afghanistan, or the Lebanese Civil War, millions of people have been displaced. Millions more have seen their lives changed forever with the uprisings in Tunisia, Egypt, Libya, Yemen and Syria that began in 2010.
In the 21st century, it is easy for us to forget that World War I was said to be "the war to end all wars." Here I am, writing on the 100th anniversary of that brutal conflagration that killed over 15 million combatants and civilians in Europe.
Since the civil war began in 2010, Syria has seen some of the worst fighting in its history.
In conjunction with the new exhibition War and People: Art, Exile and the Middle East, four Southern California-based poets read from two recent collections of poetry, Dear Darwish and With Our Eyes Wide Open, that explore the effects of war and exile on people in South Asia, the Middle East and the Americas.
With Our Eyes Wide Open: Poems of the New American Century, focuses on the impact of recent wars on populations around the world specially the U.S. wars in Southeast Asia (Vietnam etc.), Central America, and the Middle East. This international anthology of poetry explores the impact of the United States in wars as well as upon the "nobodies"-outcasts, immigrants, the working class: "They [the poets]...represent an emerging poetic consciousness which is helping todefine and shape the imagination and language of the 21st Century." Using a call-and-response pattern, the poems look at the impact of the United States' wars in Korea, Vietnam, Central American, and Iraq on lives. Vietnamese-American poet Teresa Mei Chuc, and Julia Stein read from their own poems. Dima Hilal, a Lebanese American will read her work. We will also read some of the Middle Eastern poets in the anthology from Turkey, Oman, Egyptian-American, Morocco, Iraq, and Chechnya.
Read reviews of With Eyes Wide Open here and in Counterpunch here.
Critics of Islam ask why Muslims themselves don't speak out often enough against extremism. The Levantine Cultural Center and Bana Hilal invite you to a salon, "When People of Muslim Heritage Challenge Fundamentalism," the subject of law professor Karima Bennoune's prize-winning book, and her Ted talk (March 2014). Of course, many Muslims like the young Malala Yousafzai and countless others around the world oppose Islamic fundamentalism, but they rarely make the news. Karima Bennoune, a native of Algeria, is a human rights lawyer and UC Davis law professor. Her book Your Fatwa Does Not Apply Here, Untold Stories from the Fight Against Muslim Fundamentalism, just won the Dayton Literary Peace Prize for 2014. It was named one of the top ten books of the year on religion and spirituality by Booklist, the magazine of the American Library Association. Read an excerpt on how Muslim artists battle fundamentalism.
Watch Karima Bennoune's Ted talk.
"Your Fatwa Does Not Apply Here should be required reading, not only for those of us who are professionally involved with Muslim-majority societies, but also for anyone who mistakenly believes that Muslims are doing nothing to end fundamentalist violence." —Rachel Newcomb, The Washington Post
Chapman University, Wilkinson College of Humanities and Social Sciences, Dept. of Political Science, History and Peace Studies and the Levantine Cultural Center present present a rare evening with celebrated author and blogger Juan Cole (The New Arabs; Engaging the Muslim World), introduced by political science associate professor Nubar Hovsepian. The talk is on "How the Arab Millennial Generation is changing the Middle East." There will be Q & A and a book signing, along with a light reception. All welcome, free to the public. Copies of Juan Cole's books will be available for purchase and signing.
Friends of the Levantine Cultural Center present a rare evening with celebrated author and blogger Juan Cole (The New Arabs; Engaging the Muslim World), introduced by historian Mark LeVine (Why They Don't Hate Us; One Land, Two States). A delicious sit-down dinner and dessert will be followed by conversation with Professors Cole and LeVine on "the New Arabs," the thesis of Cole's latest book, in relation to the Israel/Palestine question, and the future of the Middle East/North Africa, notably the debate about the supposed demise of Arab civilization, debated recently by Hisham Melham in Politico and Juan Cole with respect to the rise of the Islamic State.
The conversation, followed by a public dialogue engaging the audience, will conclude with a concert of Arab/Egyptian music performed live on kanun by Jim Grippo and on 'oud by Ziyad Marcus. Dinner tickets are $75 per person Patron of the Arts ($40 is tax-deductible) benefitting the new Levantine Cultural Center. Seating is limited to just 40 persons, so advance reservations are strongly advised. Seats are not guaranteed without RSVPs. Call 323.413.2001 or reserve here online.
What do we understand about contemporary Egypt now after several years have passed since the Tahrir Square Revolution of 2011? With the fall of Hosni Mubarak, the election of Muslim Brotherhood candidate Mohamed Morsi, his ouster and the subsequent takeover of the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces (SCAF), and the imposition of General Abdel Fatah al-Sisi as Egypt's new president, the landscape continues to rumble beneath Egyptian feet.
Egyptian-born French American novelist Juliana Maio has written a novel, City of the Sun, that connects many of the roots of today's turmoil to World War II, with the Axis-Allied struggle for control of the Suez Canal, and the early history of the Muslim Brotherhood.
Drawing from her Egyptian-Jewish heritage and personal experience as a refugee and immigrant, Maio's City of the Sun delivers a powerful story with a host of intriguing characters, from spies to scientists within Cairo's Jewish community. The novel follows Mickey Connolly, an American journalist who is in Cairo to report on the war in North Africa in 1941. Mixing true historical events with a fictional story of love and espionage, Maio creates a poignant tale, while painting an accurate portrait of a pivotal moment in history.
Ms. Maio will present her novel at the Levantine Cultural Center in conversation with Egyptian-born political science professor Nubar Hovsepian, on Thursday, Oct. 2, 7 pm. All welcome for what is sure to be a scintillating conversation linking Egypt's past and its relationships with the United States, Israel and the Palestinians with today's current events. Visit Juliana Maio's web site. Cover $10 or $15 with signed copy of the book. Café open for dinner as of 6 pm.