Spoleto’s ongoing discussion series returns with a new focus and expanded scope. More On That Now covers a wide range of topics drawing inspiration from themes found in the 2022 Festival season and the broader artistic industry. Expert panelists gathered virtually to address the arts’ connection to and intersection with religion, education, social justice, and identity politics. Dr. Hussein Rashid—an educator and academic whose research focuses on Muslim and American pop culture—serves as the series moderator.
The story of West African Muslims in the United States does not begin or end with Omar Ibn Said. While Said’s autobiography shares a remarkable first-hand account, the enslaved Muslim experience in America was not monolithic. During this talk, panelists Dr. Muhammad Fraser-Rahim (Professor, The Citadel) and Okolo Rashid (Co-Founder, President, and CEO, International Museum of Muslim Cultures) discussed the lives and faith of several enslaved African Muslims, such as Ibrahima Abdur Rahman and Ayuba Suleiman Diallo—both princes in their homelands—and Salih Bilali and Bilali Mohammed, who worshipped along Georgia’s coastal islands. Discover these figures’ shared and disparate histories, cultural practices, and legacies left behind.
The Crusades, 1000 years later
Test your historical knowledge: Who “won” the holy wars? It may come as no surprise to hear there are varying perspectives on the Crusades’s causes and repercussions. By some accounts, nation-states and Islam emerged, while other accounts describe a region ravished and sectarian. Dating back over a millennium, these conflicts are a foundational example of how religion and ideology have been used throughout history to forcibly change societies. Taking inspiration from Unholy Wars—a new opera that received its world premiere during Spoleto in 2022—panelists Ethel Sara Wolper (Professor, University of New Hampshire), Ussama Makdisi (Professor, Rice University), and Zeyba Rahman (Senior Program Officer for the Building Bridges Program, Doris Duke Foundation for Islamic Art) discussed rare accounts of contemporary Muslim life as a result of this time period.
What role should the performing arts play in education and the teaching of history? Spoleto Festival USA’s 2022 season looked at the power of the arts to reveal untold histories, especially those of marginalized people and groups whose stories are not widely shared or known. Works like Omar and Unholy Wars, for example, asked us to not only look at history, but ask why those histories are told and who is telling it. Moderator Dr. Hussein Rashid (husseinrashid.com) is joined by Dr. Raina Saeb of the West Coast University; Winthrop University’s Kim Wilson; Dr. Phillip Wilder of Clemson University; and LaTisha Vaughn, who is an education consultant in the South Carolina Lowcountry.
Building Community through the Arts
While art is often seen as something that reflects society, it can be used to shape society. How can the arts identify, address, and promote big changes the world needs? In this discussion, panelists talk about the true power of the arts to shape cities and policies and strengthen the ties between us. For this conversation, scholar Hussein Rashid is joined by Lydia Cotton and Marty Pottenger. Lydia Cotton is the co-founder of the Art Pot in Hanahan, South Carolina—our state’s first Hispanic multicultural center providing arts programming for kids and adults. Lydia is actively involved with the Hispanic community in the Charleston area, a tireless advocate of its people—making sure they are aware of their rights and their resources. A celebrated playwright, Marty Pottenger is also the founder of Art at Work, a national arts initiative that partners with communities and governments that uses creativity and the performing and visual arts to address non-arts based challenges.
Art & Global Politics
In this discussion, three artists and scholars talk about the intersection of art and history as well as art and politics and cultural diplomacy. How do performances shape our understanding of history—and how might politics shape our understanding of art? The panelists will also speak about America’s position as a global arts leader, and how its position has changed or been challenged over time. Moderator Dr. Hussein Rashid is joined by South African musician Kyla-Rose Smith and Synetic Theater co-founding director Paata Tsikurishvili.
You may also like: Exploring Omar (previously recorded)