Abu Dhabi Community Explores Peace Through the Arts

NYU Abu Dhabi celebrated the International Day of Peace on Sept. 21 by inviting students and members of the wider UAE community to a peace-themed Arts ...

Sep 21, 2013

NYU Abu Dhabi celebrated the International Day of Peace on Sept. 21 by inviting students and members of the wider UAE community to a peace-themed Arts Bonanza. Organized by the Peace360 Student Interest Group, the event was a platform for ideas about peace ranging from media and short film to beatbox. Performers and spectators saw the event as an opportunity to explore thoughts about the arts as well as peace.
Peace360 SIG member and sophomore Louis Plottel began the night by explaining the history of International Day of Peace, which was first recognized by the United Nations in 1981, making this year its 36th session.
Special guest Farah Chamma from the Paris-Sorbonne University Abu Dhabi was both the first and last performer. Chamma started with a poem about domestic violence against women, in particular the case of a woman in Brazil who became paraplegic after suffering from domestic violence.
"If we don't have peace at home, we will never have peace in the broad sense of the term," said Chamma.
Chamma first gained recognition among the Arabic-speaking community of the UAE through a controversial poem written in Arabic. She decided that printed books would not be as accessible as an art form as video for her generation. Chamma and her friend recently recorded her poem “I Am No Palestinian” on film, and it has since circulated through social media. Chamma performed the poem at an NYUAD open mic last year and again as the last performance of the NYUAD Arts Bonanza. Chamma said that she was inspired by the event.
"Being here and speaking different languages and meeting different people, ... never to feel awkward at all and not to feel shame is exactly where I want poetry to take us," said Chamma after the Arts Bonanza ended.
For senior Yannick Trapman-O'brien, thinking about peace in a community such as NYUAD was a topic of discussion.
"I wished the world worked like the dining hall," Trapman-O'brien read.
A short film by freshman Yasmin Al-Modhwahi about different students' conceptions of peace, which began with hesitations and pauses, suggested the difficulty in defining such an abstract concept. However, the word respect was often connected with peace. Chamma found that the event contributed to her understanding of peace.
"I think my definition of peace is formed by events like this," said Chamma. "I don't think anyone knows what peace is, it's very hard to just say — but by doing all these things [we can] form some definition of peace."
Freshman Nafisatou Mounkaila was inspired by the different ways in which performers could explore the idea of peace.
"What peace can do ... it can bring different art forms together," said Mounkaila. "Look what happened — a beatboxer came for a peace event. That's not something I would've thought of before, but now I know it's possible. It shows how much people care."
Beatboxing group Cannonball Productions came from Dubai to perform at the Arts Bonanza. They used a combination of beatboxing, rapping and singing to explore the theme of peace. MC Yazen performed the final song with the group. For MC Yazen, the event was an example of the artistic UAE community.
"I was really happy to find this [kind of] thing here in this city," said MC Yazen. "It was a pleasure to be here and perform."
Beyond exploring conceptions of peace, some performances also offered actions that students may take toward achieving peace. A short film by freshman Issa Nasr featured an interview with senior Amani Alsaied about her reflections on the Syrian crisis.
"We often do not think about how close things like that are to us, we just push them away because honestly they're painful," said Alsaied, in Nasr's film. "I hope that we can send our prayers. Whatever religion you are, send your prayers to the people who are suffering."
Other NYUAD students further explored Alsaied’s comment about approaching peace from an internationally minded perspective. After the event, Trapman-O'brien considered what peace could mean specifically to the NYUAD student body.
"[The Arts Bonanza] was more an attempt to both recognize and celebrate what we have and yet challenge ourselves to look deeper," said Trapman-O'brien. "I doubt we'll ever again have such an opportune community within which to try for a deeper, more nuanced and sustainable peace."
Plottel, who played a large role in organizing the event along with sophomore Clara Correia, reflected positively on the event.
"What people were saying ... showed that peace is very multifaceted," said Plottel.
Joey Bui is news editor. Email her at
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