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ISSUE 120 VOL 2 PUBLISHED 9/29/2006

Arab culture explored

By Becky Eisinger
Contributing Writer

Friday, September 29, 2006

A series of events exploring Arab culture will begin in early October at St. Olaf, including lectures, performing arts and films. The series is sponsored by the Middle East Studies department, the Leraas Fund, International Studies, the Boldt Chair, and the Religion, Dance, and Sociology-Anthropology Departments.

On Oct. 5, Father Youannes Tawfik, a Coptic priest at St. Maryís Coptic Orthodox Church in St. Paul, will be speaking in chapel at 11 a.m. In addition, Father Youannes Tawfik and Mother Louis Farag will give a lecture entitled "Coptic ëEgyptianí Christians: Straddling continuity and change for 2,000 years" on Monday in Holland Hall 501, 3:30-5 p.m.

On Oct. 18, a MoroccanñBerber dance and music group, Bínet Houariyat, will be visiting campus. Bínet Houariyat means "The Daughters of the Houara." It is a group of five women from Marrakech, Morocco. The women perform traditional music from the Houara region in southern Morocco, as well as centuries-old Berber dances.

The group traditionally performs at events such as newborn infant ceremonies, male circumcisions, reunions, engagement parties and weddings. All of the women play percussion instruments, called douzan, and take turns singing about religious life, beauty, and love. Bínet Houariyat will be giving a public dance performance in Dittman Studio 1 from 7-8:30 p.m.

In addition, three films will be shown.

"This film series aims to complement an understanding of the rich culture and civilization of the Arab World," Professor of Sociology Samiha Peterson said. "Too often the emphasis on war undermines an understanding of the long history and rich heritage associated with the area."

On Oct. 3, "The Grand Voyage" by Ismael Ferroukhi will be shown in Bruntrock 144 at 7:30 p.m. The film follows a character named Reda and his father as they drive from France to Saudi Arabia for the annual pilgrimage to Mecca.

On Oct. 29, the film "Destiny" by Youssef Chahine will be playing in Viking Theater at 7:30 p.m. "Destiny" illuminates the resurgence of Islamic fundamentalism through the context of twelfth century Cordoba, Spain.

On Nov. 11, "Hany Abu Abbass's film "Paradise Now" will show in Viking Theater at 7:30 p.m. "Paradise Now" won Best Foreign Language Film at the 2006 Golden Globes and was nominated for an Academy Award. The film traces the moral dilemmas of two young Palestinian men who struggle with the implications of suicide bombing.

"The diverse mediums for the presentations will hopefully provide a positive experience for participants," Peterson said.

Abby Matthews '08 is also looking forward to the upcoming Arab series.

"This is a unique opportunity for the St. Olaf community to learn more about the dynamic and diverse Arab cultures and traditions," she said. "I think for many people the Arab world is often reduced to oversimplified stereotypes, so having Arab Weeks here is a great chance to experience the rich heritage of this part of the world in a way that is relevant and important in today's global society."

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