Zanbeel Art’s LA/Islam Arts Initiative 2014 Program

“The practice of art as it incorporates beauty is essential in creating a peacefully and uniquely coalescent conversation.” Zanbeel Art is a non-profit organization based in Los Angeles that creates a platform for cross-cultural exchange through education and the creative arts. Their current exhibition, In Search of the Dot that Created the Circle: Geometry in Nature is part of the Los Angeles / Islam Arts Initiative (LA/IAI).

The innovative LA initiative brings together nearly 30 cultural institutions throughout Los Angeles to tell various stories of traditional and contemporary art from multiple Islamic regions and their significant global diasporas. The event is presented by several institutions: the City of Los Angeles Department of Cultural Affairs with major support from the Doris Duke Foundation for Islamic Art, the National Endowment for the Arts, the California Community Foundation, the California Institute of the Arts, and the Barnsdall Park Foundation. LA/IAI is the first wide-scale citywide initiative on Islamic arts in Los Angeles.

In Search of the Dot that Created the Circle: Geometry in Nature investigates the universal and transformative nature of geometry in Islamic art. This engaging exhibition, curated by Amina Ahmed and Santiago Navila, explores the discipline through the practice of teachers and alumni of The Prince’s School of Traditional Arts (PSTA). Together with their students from both East and West, the Geometry in Nature exhibition includes the work of master geometricians, Dr Keith Critchlow and Paul Marchant, whose examples in particular trace the dynamic manifestation of geometry in Islamic art. They demonstrate the timeless and universal aspects of a discipline that is both profoundly symbolic and is the essential underlying principle that permeates all living things. The exhibition journeys through this universal tradition to see how this process was revived and is continued today. In conjunction with the exhibition, Zanbeel Art’s program for LA/IAI includes two educational workshops bringing students from inner-city schools to the Los Angeles Municipal Art Gallery, as well as the Seyhoun Gallery, in which the exhibition is currently being displayed.

A two-week preview of the exhibition will be shown at Seyhoun Gallery, November 1 st through 13 th. The finalized exhibition will show at CB1 Gallery’s new Downtown location, opening January 25 th and running throughout February. Participating artists include: Keith Critchlow, Paul Marchant, Emma Clark in association with Petherick Urquhart & Hunt, Simon Tretheway, Parveen Zuberi, Lisa deLong, Tom Bree, Katya Nosyreva, Susana Marin, Shafon Miah, Kayo Kimura, Adam Williamson, Sama Mara & Lee Westwood, Natasha Mann, and, Leila Dear.

The opening reception on November 1, 2014 at Seyhoun Gallery, West Hollywood, was well attended, insightful and inspirational. Pakistan Consul General, Tasawar Khan, graced the occasion, in addition to representatives from the Department of Cultural Affairs, Los Angeles, LAPD Liaison and LA/IAI partner galleries. Ahmed and Navila described the essence of their detailed vision. Ahmed spoke on the vitality of beauty, art, and, education; quoting from a 2007 speech by HRH Prince Gazi bin Mohammad of Jordan in an essay written by Emma Clark, “Sacred art is to do with beauty, and beauty is a universal language. Beauty can break down barriers better than interfaith dialogue ….The revival of traditional Islamic art has been the best messenger and the best barrier breaker between Islam and the West. Because, people come and they say ‘This is beautiful’; it’s not beautiful because its Islamic—it’s just beautiful, it’s universal. And so people come away from traditional Islamic art with a positive image of a civilization and even a love for Islamic civilization”.

Zanbeel Art strives to encourage dialogue and understanding between diverse communities in Los Angeles. “It is absolutely imperative for Pakistani Americans to reach out to the diverse communities of Los Angeles at this juncture when the media often projects the myopic violent aspect of South Asians and Muslims,” said Fatima Sultan Khan, Director of the non-profit. Zanbeel Art is driven by this passion and commitment to build bridges with multiple tiers of diverse communities. Through its art exhibitions, book launches, youth art, and school programs Zanbeel Art promotes learning, understanding, and the hope for peace in future generations.

Zanbeel Art is a non-profit 501 (c) (3) that aims to provide a platform for the transnational cultural dialogue and for the sharing of ideas by means of educational programs and festivals in Visual Art, History, Literature, Film, and Music. Zanbeel Art brings exposure to established and emerging multinational South Asian artists. Our vision is to inspire and enrich marginalized communities and students of low socioeconomic schools in the United States and South Asia. The programs extend beyond cultural boundaries by fostering an understanding of what brings us together and what it is that separates us. This inclusive platform nurtures a disparate society by giving it a voice through the arts.

To support these programs in any way or to make a donation please visit Zanbeel Art is a 501 c 3 organization and your donation is fully tax deductible.

Past activities by the organization illustrate its commitment and focus within the community of Los Angeles:

  • Los Angeles based Scott Clarkson a photographer/lawyer visited Pakistan and Afghanistan a number of times and has taken a million photographs. A series of his photographs were displayed at various Zanbeel Art exhibitions.
  • Zanbeel partnered with Santa Monica Art Walk in 2009 and more than 3000 people saw stunning Flight of the Falcons by Farooq Yousufzai. In addition artworks of 20 South Asian and American artists were displayed.
  • Youth Art Exhibition in Dec 2012 curated by Sadaf Ahmed and Raeesa Tar: The Youth voice was loud and clear, they projected in their art, post-9/11 fear, consumerism, religious divide, most of all a yearning for peace.
  • Book Launches and Author Talks: Ethan Casey, alive and well in Pakistan, launched his book at the South Asian American Art Festival along with Kamran Pasha, Anila Ali, Stephen Huyler, and Marcella Nesom Sirhandi.
  • Zanbeel facilitated a donation of “Morphing” in 2011, to the Department of Cultural Affairs Los Angeles. The painting was purchased by Mrs Amina Adaya, a resident of Santa Monica and donated to DCA. Morphing a 9’x9’ painting by Karachi-based artist Asad Hussain depicted a colored child with golden wings taking flight, an ICON of Los Angeles. The painting is hanging at DCA LA 201 Figueroa St. Los Angeles, Floor 14. Olga Garray commented, “This is how diverse communities build bridges of understanding via art”.
  • Partnered with the Citizens Archive of Pakistan, founded by filmmaker and journalist Sharmeen Obaid Chinoy (Saving Face, Children of the Taliban), to implement a creative exchange using letters, collages, and videos between 5th Graders in Los Angeles, California with their counterparts in Karachi, Pakistan.
  • Cheryl Maletta, Trujillo a Board member of Zanbeel Art, has designed South Asian Art and Literacy for Youth -- a nine-week course on South Asian culture, which encourages students to become citizens of the world. Activities are focused on developing skills needed to live and work effectively in culturally and politically diverse societies. Students who participate in the South Asian Art and Literacy for Youth have seen a significant growth in their test scores, confidence, and understanding of the South Asian regions.

- Leila Shauk

Edited by Flecha del Atardecer



Editor: Akhtar M. Faruqui
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