This week, our host department, the Office of International Cooperation and Exchanges at Nanjing University, provide a full-day tour of Nanjing, complete with driver and guide. Our guide was a Nanjing native, a 25 year-old masters degree candidate in Linguistics named Yuan Yuan, but who asked us to call her Vivian. Most Chinese students whom we have met have an English name, which Vivian says they typically adopt in middle school as they are learning English. So one of the students in my class, Wang Li, is Lily, another of our assistants, Jia Shi, is Cici, and our very capable program as
Grinnell, IA - Africa’s current and future roles in the international arena will be the focus of a week-long symposium at Grinnell College, Apr. 9-13, sponsored by the college’s Rosenfield Program in Public Affairs, International Relations and Human Rights. A former ambassador to Ethiopia, scholars of African politics and economics, and a recent leader of Africare will share first-hand experiences about the continent.
“Africa is a continent of contrasts that has tremendous importance for the rest of the world—international relations, economic growth, cultural affairs,” said Sarah Purcell, director of the Rosenfield Program. “We want to get at that importance by taking a look at Africa’s regional issues, as well as its effective relationships with the rest of the world.”
The week-long symposium will include the following free, public events to be held in Room 101 of the Joe Rosenfield ’25 Center on the Grinnell campus (unless otherwise noted):
- Mon., Apr. 9, 8 p.m.: Lahra Smith, assistant professor in Georgetown University’s School of Foreign Service, will discuss “Old Trade-Offs and New Realities: Challenges of Economic Development and Political Reform in Africa” in Alumni Recitation Hall, Room 302.
- Tues., Apr. 10, 4:15 p.m.: Boniface Dulani, a member of the faculty at the University of Malawi, will consider recent political movements in “Neither Consolidating nor Fully Democratic: The Evolution of African Political Regimes, 1999-2008.”
- Wed., Apr. 11, 4:15 p.m.: Africa’s place in the arts world will be the topic for Kelly Askew, associate professor of anthropology and Afroamerican/African Studies at the University of Michigan, in “Poetry and Politics along the Indian Ocean Littoral.” Askew is also director of Michigan’s African Studies Center.
- Wed., Apr. 11, 8 p.m.: Ambassador David Shinn, former U.S. ambassador to Burkina Faso and Ethiopia, will compare “China and Africa: An Evolving Relationship.” Shinn is adjunct professor at the Elliott School of International Affairs at the George Washington University.
- Thurs., Apr. 12, 11 a.m.: Woodrow Wilson Visiting Fellow Julius Coles will deliver the Scholars’ Convocation on “Prospects for Africa in the 21st Century.” Coles, the former president of Africare, is director of Morehouse College’s Andrew Young Center for International Affairs.
- Thurs., Apr. 12, 4:15 p.m.: The role of women will be the topic of a talk by Pearl Robinson, associate professor of political science at Tufts University, in “African Muslim Women and Civic Islam.”
- Fri., Apr. 13, noon: The symposium will close with a lecture in South Lounge of the College Forum by Assefa Mehretu, professor of geography at Michigan State University. Mehretu, who is also director of the Center for Integrative Studies in Social Science at Michigan, will discuss “The Rise and Decline of America's Soft-Power in Africa: The Case of Ethiopia.”
The African and Caribbean Students Union will host a film festival in connection with the symposium, offering “Umkhungo” at 8 p.m. on Apr. 12; “Teza” at 7 p.m. on Apr. 14; and “Ties that Bind” at 4:15 p.m. on Apr. 15. All films will be shown in Alumni Recitation Hall, Room 302.
For more information about the symposium, contact Sarah Purcell, firstname.lastname@example.org, 641-269-3091. Grinnell welcomes the participation of people with disabilities. Information on parking and accessibility is available on the college website. Accommodation requests may be made to Conference Operations at 641-269-3235 or email@example.com.
Grinnell, IA - The Young, Gifted and Black Gospel Choir, a 32-voice choral ensemble from Grinnell College, will present concerts, March 18-24, in churches in Iowa, Illinois, Mississippi, and Houston, Tex., as part of a spring break tour.
The Young, Gifted and Black Gospel Choir, open to students of all backgrounds, has a 45-year history on the Grinnell campus. Through a bond of “cultural uniformity,” the choir ministers to a variety of audiences with a wide selection of sacred music, including spirituals and traditional and contemporary gospel. Each engagement is tailored to the audience, adding an air of spontaneity and encouraging audience participation.
The gospel choir, directed by Barry Jones, lecturer of music, will share their music ministry at:
Mar. 18, 10:45 a.m., 3 p.m.: Greater Hope Missionary Baptist Church, 1219 South St., Burlington, Ia.
Mar. 19, 7 p.m.: Gateway Area Bible Fellowship Church, 85 Water St., Rt. 3, Cahokia, Ill.
Mar. 22, 7 p.m.: Aldersgate United Methodist Church, 655 Beasley Rd., Jackson, Miss., with The Grinnell Singers select choir
Mar. 24, 5 p.m.: Brentwood Baptist Church, 13033 Landmark Dr., Houston, Tex., with The Grinnell Singers select choir
Grinnell College is a nationally recognized, private, four year, liberal arts college located in Grinnell, Iowa. Founded in 1846, Grinnell enrolls 1,600 students from all 50 states and from as many international countries in more than 26 major fields, interdisciplinary concentrations, and pre-professional programs.
Grinnell, IA - “Sandow Birk’s American Qur’an” will open Fri., Jan. 27 at Grinnell College’s Faulconer Gallery. The exhibition, organized by The Andy Warhol Museum of Pittsburgh, will be on view in Grinnell through Mar. 18.
Birk, a California-based artist, has been engaged for the past six years in transcribing and illustrating an English translation of the 114 Suras, or chapters, of the Qur’an, Islam’s sacred text. Based on traditional models of manuscript illumination, Birk’s adaptation combines handwritten text with images drawn from contemporary American life. The Faulconer Gallery exhibition includes 85 painted panels from the ongoing project, which the artist plans to complete in 2014.
Birk was drawn to the Qur’an out of curiosity, seeking to educate himself about a book that many have formed opinions about, but fewer have actually read. “Given the global situation, the Qur’an may be the most important book on Earth, but few Americans know anything about it,” Birk told the New York Times in 2009. “I’m attempting to create visual metaphors that go along with the text and hopefully make it more accessible to Americans, more relevant to American life.”
Six of the panels in the exhibition, representing chapters 36 and 37 from the total 114, are part of Grinnell College’s permanent art collection, purchased in 2010.
“The purpose of the college’s art collection is education, and it is the Faulconer Gallery’s mission to use the collection in provocative ways to foster greater understanding,” said Daniel Strong, associate director of the gallery and curator of exhibitions. “Here is an artist who, when he’s completed the project, will have spent a decade of his life studying and interpreting the Qur’an solely for the purpose of educating himself about it.”
Strong explains that while most of the imagery is relatively benign, the artist found it impossible to avoid controversial events that have recently defined American life, such as devastation by Hurricane Katrina (one of the chapters in the college’s collection) and at the World Trade Center (in a chapter titled “Smoke”). “Art is a perfect means to launch the discussion. The Qur’an can’t be reduced to a few incendiary passages, nor can they or should they be disregarded. This exhibition is a quest for fuller understanding through beautifully executed art,” Strong said.
Educational programming, organized by Tilly Woodward, curator of academic and public outreach, also provides a wide variety of platforms to learn about Islam, including an open invitation for reading of the Qur’an. “Gallery visitors are invited to read aloud from the Qur’an in any language that feels right to them. We believe their experience will be enhanced from listening and reading. All are welcome to come,” Woodward said.
All events sponsored by Faulconer Gallery are free, open to the public, and located in the gallery unless otherwise noted:
- Jan. 27, 4:15-6 p.m.: Opening reception.
- Jan. 30, 4:15 p.m.: Panel discussion on “Islam in Iowa” with Kamal Hammouda, adjunct Muslim prayer leader; Mervat Youssef, assistant professor of French and Arabic; and Imam Taha Tawil of the Mother Mosque of America, who will speak on their experiences as Muslims in the state.
- Feb. 9, 4:15 p.m.: Student roundtable on “The Qur’an in America,” facilitated by Caleb Elfenbein, assistant professor of religious studies and history.
- Feb. 11, 1:30-3:30 p.m.: Community Day with a variety of hands-on activities.
- Feb. 15, 7:30 p.m.: Open mic night, co-sponsored by Grinnell Review and Grinnell College Libraries, featuring original works by Grinnell students and others who wish to share favorite writers or composers.
- Feb. 16, 4:15 p.m.: “Visualizing Islamophobia” discussion with Max Leung, lecturer in sociology, based on his research on the identities of Arabs and Muslims in America.
- Feb. 28, 4:15 p.m.: Gallery talk by artist Sandow Birk, discussing his ongoing project.
- Thursdays, Feb. 9-Mar. 15, 12:15-12:50 p.m.: Yoga with Monica St. Angelo. Co-sponsored by Live Well Grinnell. Mats provided for beginners and experienced practitioners.
More educational events will be offered in March. Faulconer Gallery, located in the Bucksbaum Center for the Arts, 1108 Park St. on the Grinnell campus, is open Tuesday-Wednesday, noon to 5 p.m., Thursday-Friday, noon to 8 p.m., Saturday-Sunday, noon to 5 p.m.; closed Monday. For more information about the exhibition and related programs, call 641-269-4660 or visit www.grinnell.edu/faulconergallery.