The Jubilee Arts Festival (JAF) is an inaugural program comprising of regional and national competitions in the USA, culminating in an International Arts Festival (IAF) in Lisbon, marking the end of Mawlana Hazar Imam’s Diamond Jubilee. The program aims to bring together artists with similar interests and abilities; it also seeks to enhance a deeper appreciation of the global Jamat's talent. The festival encourages artistic expression through visual arts, literary arts, performance arts, film, musical performances, and much more.
The Southwest Jamat witnessed an outpouring of enthusiastic artists and spectators in downtown Houston. In two short days, there were over 6,500 attendees from both, within the Ismaili community, and beyond the Ismaili community. To showcase the diversity of talents, there was a variety of exhibitions at JAF such as the live performance segment, which included the film festival, talent showcase, and a separate art gallery exhibition. Over 506 participants, representing various age groups from 5-70 years took part in the event. There were approximately 175 live performers, 16 film artists, and 288 art pieces.
Mezbeen Punjani participated in the live performance segment as a way to rekindle her interest in Kathak, a classical Indian dance form. In the film segment, 13 year-old Ieyan Lal Mohammed prepared a short video titled, "Din and Duniya," reflecting spiritual and material dimensions. The plot of the film followed the lives of three individuals who seek to manage their responsibilities and designate time for spiritual search.
An exceptional guitar player and singer soloist, Sherdil Sherzai, mesmerized the evening audience with his performance. It consisted of four notes from the musical piece titled "YAD," translated as "remembering." His offering dedicated to Jubilee Arts as "A golden chance to be part of one Jamat."
In an adjacent art gallery, was an array of artistic mediums curated for spectators—sculpture, three-dimensional art, graphic design, paper art, acrylic and oil mediums. Zakia Lalani, staged a beautiful photographic piece titled "Ishq-e-Haqiqi," meaning ultimate love for God. The piece was inspired by a famous quote of Rumi based on abstaining from material attraction to seek out spiritual enlightenment. For Zakia, this photograph symbolically translated her inner state of expression, and her love for Hazar Imam. Zakia captured the photograph in Konya, Turkey, with Mawlana Rumi's tomb in the background.
The audience, Jamat, and 150 volunteers, all expressed their jubilation about the growing integration of arts and culture with the Ismaili community. Shahista Meradia, a volunteer at the JAF painting booth, said, "I am delighted and excited…In Golden Jubilee, my kids were very young and during Diamond Jubilee, I have a golden opportunity to serve; Jubilee Arts has been an amazing experience for me."
Touched by the performances, Judge Hope Livingston remarked, "What an amazing display of talent and passion. It was an absolute honor to be here and experience so much of what the Ismaili culture has to offer. I wish each of the performers the best - each one should be proud! Congratulations to all involved!"
As Jubilee Arts came to its grand finale, Celina Charania Shariff, Chairman for Jamati Programs and Activities in the United States, said: "I am truly amazed by the caliber of the work that I have seen. I didn't know that we had Ismaili artists that were into their work and their creativity... I am just floored by [everything] that I have seen. So proud of our Ismaili Artists, it is just amazing!"
The closing ceremony was filled with celebration due to a live performance by distinguished Ismaili singers, including Fez Meghani and the Sufistics. At the pinning ceremony, regional participants were honored with a memento pin and a certificate signed by Murad Ajani, President of the Council for the Southwestern US.
Selected artists from the regional JAF can look forward to attending the National Jubilee Arts Festival in Los Angeles, California at the end of March. Artists from all across the United States will compete at the National JAF to qualify for the International Jubilee Arts Festival, that will take place at the end of the Jubilee year. The culmination of the Jubilee Arts will be an opportunity for the Ismaili Jamat to come together as One Jamat and nurture the tradition of arts and culture that binds our pluralistic community together.