Young members of the Ismaili Community in the UAE aged between 8 and 12 years, gathered at the Ismaili Centre Dubai to attend a day long programme under the auspices of the Ismaili Council for the UAE entitled "Roots". The programme involved a range of indoor and outdoor activities centred around the four principal themes of creativity, compassion, bravery and wisdom.
Participants deepened their understanding of these themes through a series of experience-based workshops in which they practiced their interpersonal engagement, critical thinking, public speaking, artistic expression and team-work skills.
One particular session challenged participants to explore the notion of artistic expression through the art of creative storytelling. Facilitators divided attendees into groups and asked each participant to prepare a narrative describing how they overcame a challenge by embracing one or more of the core themes
This notion of art as both a unifying force and an expression of individualism has been a constant throughout the rich cultural heritage of Islam over the centuries and across continents.
Mawlana Hazar Imam, at the Aga Khan Music Awards Prize-Giving Ceremony,Calouste Gulbenkian Foundation, Lisbon, 31 March 2019, commented that,
“Art is a matter of humanity just as much as it is a matter of identity. As the Islamic tradition has reminded us for many centuries, the Divine spark that bestows upon us our individuality also bonds individuals in a common human family.”
Through the work of the Aga Khan Trust for Culture, Mawlana Hazar Imam seeks to promote and preserve Islam’s rich cultural heritage through programs such as the Aga Khan Music Initiative and the Aga Khan Award for Architecture. Furthermore, Mawlana Hazar Imam leads and guides the Ismaili Community and the communities in which it lives to embrace pluralism and diversity.
Reflecting upon his experience during the Roots programme, Sinan a 9-year old attendee observed that artistic expression “..is a way of talking through barriers…” His sentiments capture how art, in its many forms, has the ability to foster peace, pluralism, tolerance and an appreciation for diversity and shared ethics among all Muslims and is fundamental to the Islamic identity.
Roots workshops take place twice a year and are open to members of the community aged 8-12 years.