Dedicated to spotlighting innovation in art and cultural diversity, the first-ever Central United States Jubilee Arts Festival was held on February 24 and 25 in Grapevine, Texas. This collaborative event brought together arts of various platforms, allowing artists a chance to share their work with the community.
“This was a first of its kind for me,” 3D artist Karim Lalani says. “I never considered myself to be an artist until the Festival. Where I was seeing geometric shapes, others were seeing art.” A software consultant by profession, Karim was inspired by sculptures at the Jamat’s Imamat Day ceremonies. “This was a way for me to connect with the Imam’s work in restoring cultural monuments, and interest in art and music,” says Karim
The Festival featured an art gallery, film screenings, talent showcase, and interactive workshops—including jewelry-making, calligraphy, and dance.
High school singers Ahad Sherali and Insha Iqbal, joined ukulele player, Saman Alibhai, to perform a medley that, they said, “connects us to Allah.” It started with George Harrison’s pop-rock song titled, “Here Comes the Sun.” The group chose to start their performance with this piece, because, to them, it accurately expressed the Nur of Allah and his continued presence in their lives.
Festival participants blended together various forms of art to submit more than 400 unique and inspiring pieces to the festival. “We were blown away by the number of submissions we received,” Central Project Manager Sumair Ladak says. “This [festival] created the perfect platform for one artist to connect with another artist.” More than 200 of the 450 submissions were displayed in the art gallery alone.
Saira Iqbal, a 15-year-old artist from Plano Jamatkhana, showcased her passion by submitting a piece titled, Elevated Spirit, to the gallery. She sketched a portrait of her grandmother, lost in the serenity of prayer, in an impressive chiaroscuro (usage of light and shade to produce depth). I wanted to show her concentration and focus when praying,” Saira said, and “It also depicts the festival themes of legacy and time through her love and devotion to her faith.”
Along with the walk-through art gallery, the talent showcase attracted spectators. The four-minute performances spotlighted artists as young as 4 and as old as 87. Shakar Mirza, 83-years-old brought listeners to tears and received tremendous applause after reciting an Urdu poem she wrote for Hazar Imam in celebration of Diamond Jubilee.
Many other artists were also greeted with the same enthusiasm as they traveled from all over the Central region to participate. Al-Nasir Kassam, a harmonium player, and Pavan Kalasikam, a tabla player, traveled from Albuquerque, New Mexico to present their own musical version of a zikr tasbih. “Music is a gift from God,” Pavan said. “Music is when you work with like-minded people and bounce energy off of each other to create this connection and ambiance of tranquility.”
Originally from the Hunza valley in northern Pakistan, singer, songwriter and classical rubab player, Shahid Akhtar Qalandar, and his wife, Basma, traveled from Arkansas to participate in the Festival. They met Kalasikam there for the first time and performed a Sufi song together for the first time, without any prior practice, enthralling the audience.
With such unique instruments and ranging talents, the festival judges were captivated. “Everyone should come out to something like this. It is a great place to showcase some talent,” festival judge Shaquille Anderson said.
“I am so grateful for our team of volunteers,” says Sumair, and “The Jamat’s experience was a high priority, and we wanted to make this event as memorable as possible.”
According to Aman Morani, a spectator from Tri-Cities Jamatkhana, they succeeded. “I feel as though this Festival is the invitation for the collaboration we need to kick-start a new era of creative possibilities. Together, we can create art that shows the true spirit of our Jamat’s passion, talent, and excitement for the Diamond Jubilee year.”
After the regional festival, participants and volunteers are gearing up for the Jubilee Arts National Festival to be held at the end of March in Los Angeles.