NUQ celebrates culture and diversity with week of special events

14 October 2011 – Understanding and celebrating diversity and cultural differences was the focus “Shades of Purple,” a week-long series of events for students at Northwestern University in Qatar this week.




“Shades of Purple” prompted participants to learn more about the rich cultural life at NU-Q and deepen their links with each other. The events included lectures, an art show, international comedy night, and – capping off the week – a gala dinner on Thursday.




“To experience and know diversity is at the core of international understanding between and among people of different national, ethnic, racial and religious traditions,” said Dr. Everette E. Dennis, dean and CEO.“Events like ‘Shades of Purple’ help facilitate learning in a variety of subjects, which in turn helps to prepare students not only to take on the challenging roles of the fast-evolving media industry, but also to be involved global citizens.”




A lecture called “Diversity in the Arab World” by Professor Zachary Wright, Ph.D., kicked off Shades of Purple on Sunday (October 9). In his well-attended presentation Dr. Wright linked the richness of Arab traditions to Islamic intellectual history, and then described the characteristics of the Muslim societies that appreciated and embraced cultural and religious diversity.




“Diversity of thought and opinion is one of the most striking features of students of the Islamic intellectual tradition, and perhaps its greatest strength,” Dr. Wright said. “Different, but mutually valid, opinions on women’s public roles, for example, allowed women’s participation in the pre-modern public sphere to greater extent than previously admitted.







“They (Arab Muslim women) studied with eminent scholars and were eminent scholars themselves, some delivering public lectures in Damascus, Cairo and Medina,” he said. “Indeed, those Arabs who would censure Education City for mixed gender education have failed to examine the richness and diversity of their own pedagogical tradition.”




Later on Sunday, Dr. Tracy L. Vaughn, senior lecturer of literature at NU-Q, gave a talk on quilt making and its significance to the African American culture, as she opened her exhibit “Radiant Compositions” featuring her stunning work in quilt artistry encompassing nearly a decade.




Her quilts pay homage to their domestic, traditional, utilitarian roots, while at the same time are formal expressions of enduring artistic themes: the beauty of spontaneity, the energy of motion; and the imaginative use of color.




“My own interest in the exhibition is to see the how quilting in Qatar is received and look at the possibility of interaction in ways in which cultural influences – in this case the Arabesque patterns – can take a new form,” Dr. Vaughn said.




“Throughout the week, I’m also engaging students in the art of making quilts during various sessions. Their work will subsequently form part of a larger quilt that we expect to take a year and become part of the NU-Q legacy. It is planned to be hanged at the front door of the campus welcoming visitors,” Dr. Vaughn said, during a quilt session on Monday. 




The exhibition continues until October 20 at the Hamad Bin Khalifa University Student Center from 10am to 9pm (Saturday – Thursday) and 1pm to 9pm (Friday).




Set for Tuesday was the “Shades of Purple International Comedy Night” featuring Saad Khan and other international comedians.



Wednesday saw Professor Sue Pak, a visiting assistant professor at NU-Q talk about her experience as an Asian woman; 'woman of color' and most importantly as a playwright, who found her way into the American theatre, in an absorbing lecture titled "Reflections on Diversity".




"As a playwright you must always think of your audience. That being said, even the cleverest playwright realizes you can't just write for your audience. The best you can do is write about honest and real characters," said Pak, as she walked the listeners through the lens of diversity in creative art and playwright.



"Spend time on every character not just the ones you sympathize with... and if you are still thought of anti-American or whiny, at least you will know  that you have truly done the best work you can do," she added.



To cap off the week, on Thursday, the “Shades of Purple Dinner” was held, as attendees donned attire that was representative of their various backgrounds, and feasted on a culturally-diverse menu.

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