Al-Bustan started off the New Year with a special project for students in the after-school visual art program at Moffet Elementary School. Teaching artist Lisa Volta capitalized on the timing of Al-Bustan’s Concert Series featuring guest artist The Narcicyst on March 2nd and introduced students to the works of the Iraqi-Canadian hip-hop/multimedia artist.
Volta began the January classes with Narcy’s “Hamdulillah” (Arabic for “Thanks to God”). The music video depicts images of people from all walks of life across the globe and speaks to a common humanity that cuts across race, creed, and geography. After watching the video, the students began a conversation about who and what they are thankful for in their lives, what it means to give thanks, and what that might look like in action. Some of the students talked about thankfulness in relation to freedom and what they would feel like if they were flying. Using bird imagery as a symbol of freedom and thanks, the students drew outlines of different types of birds and wrote the word “Hamdulillah” in Arabic within the shape of the bird.
Volta continued the classes sharing with students some of Narcy’s recent work in his community in Montreal, in particular “Arab Winter, “ a project in collaboration with several visual artists. Two of the artists in the group are sisters Sundus and Tamara Abdul Hadi, who work collaboratively to make artworks that combine photography, multimedia collage, and painting. One body of work in particular is called “The Flight Series,” and features a series of photographs by Tamara entitled, “Flying Boys,” that were originally shot as boys jumping into the sea but were adapted by Sundus through painting and collage to show young boys flying over cities, people, and expanses of land. Sundus refers to the Flight Series as:
“an attempt to touch on issues that relate to the abnormal circumstances surrounding violence and survival, mobility and identity…the call for change in the Middle East, in light of the obstacles that the youth must overcome to shape a brighter future.”
Inspired by these artworks and the concept of rising above circumstance to embrace bigger ideas, the students took turns posing and tracing life-sized silhouettes of each other with their arms raised up in flight. They created stencils from the bird drawings and traced them in the background of their silhouette drawings.
As the students were completing the finishing touches on their drawings, we photographed them with their artwork, as still images inspired by the people featured in the video “Alhmadulillah,” An exhibit of the students’ artwork will be on display on March 2 at the Trinity Center for Urban Life, and a slideshow of the students with their artwork will be screened during The Narcicyst’s performance of “Hamdulillah.”