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Sights, sounds of Syria bring communities together through art, storytelling

Emad Hemede, UD's international artist in residence, discusses his work at a campus event highlighting the sights and sounds of his native Syria.

More than 200 individuals from all walks of life filled the University of Delaware Perkins Student Center West Lounge one day last semester for the launch of the Arts Bridging Culture (ABC) series and this year’s International Artist in Residence (AiR) Program with an event highlighting the sights and sounds of Syria.

“Art is an omniglot. It speaks every language,” said Scott Stevens, director of UD’s English Language Institute during his introduction to the event. 

ELI will partner throughout the year with the College of Arts and Sciences and other units across campus to host the ABC series, which is aimed at “creating the ambiance for meaningful interaction.” 

As the official University debut of Syrian painter and sculptor Emad (Jano) Hemede, the event began with a gallery of the artist’s transitional work. “I want to remember the peace in my country and to talk about its beauty and history,” said Hemede, who titled his paintings “The Day Before Tomorrow” to invoke the idea of peace and unity that previously existed in Syria.

Since immigrating to the United States after the outbreak of war in 2011, Hemede has worked through his art to create awareness around the story of his home country.

Students and passers-by at the event also had the opportunity to interact with Hemede by putting the finishing touches on postcards of his most-recent and uncompleted piece of art throughout the day. 

Those who participated will be invited to take part in exclusive workshops with Hemede in the coming months.

Of his experience, Hemede said, “I would like to bring together American and international students, faculty and residents to open the dialogue between different people and cultures by using art in all its forms,” adding that he wants to “expose the UD community to the richness of our culture and tradition.”

In addition, Colin Miller, UD director of global arts, came together with Xiang Gao, Distinguished Professor of Music, and several students to produce and perform an original arrangement of Aziza, an Arabic composition written by Mohammed Abdel Wahab.

Gao, addressing the audience, said, “Today the theme is about global outreach, about reaching out to many different cultures.”

Xiang Gao leads a performance as part of the Arts Bridging Culture event, launched during fall semester to encourage interactions and discussions about heritage and culture.

The night also featured a live presentation by Jason Hamacher, a punk drummer and founder of Lost Origin Sound Series and Lost Origin Productions.

Hamacher began his Syrian journey in 2001, when he was granted permission to record the oldest chants of the Syrian Orthodox Church.  This experience shaped a unique view on the country and its people. 

“Governments do not represent the people that live inside of the government,” said Hamacher. “Everyone has disagreements with the way things are run, but this has little to do with the way people live. What I wanted to do, facing what has happened, is to expose the public to the way that Syrians really work.” 

Those in the audience were then invited to socialize, meet others from around the world, and have a meaningful discussion around heritage, culture and how people define themselves. 

“The greatest thing about tonight was meeting my friend Omar Alamri,” said Jacob Verbanas, a Delaware Diplomat and mechanical engineering major. “We were told to meet somebody from a different country, and by chance we clicked.”

It is these kinds of connections that the AiR and Arts Bridging Cultures programs hope to continue to facilitate. 

This event was supported by the College of Arts and Sciences (CAS), the English Language Institute (ELI) and the Office of the Provost.

To learn more about the International Artist in Residence or Arts Bridging Cultures programs, contact Colin Miller or ELI orientation coordinator Tim Kim.  

About the International Artist in Residence Program

The College of Arts and Sciences’ International Artist in Residence (AiR) Program is designed to promote cultural understanding and to further internationalize campus life through integrating art and artists from around the world into classroom and extracurricular learning. 

Each year, AiR hosts at least two international artists, who interact with the University and larger Delaware community through workshops, performances, exhibits and other similar activities while also producing original work. Through these programs, the artist enables UD faculty, staff and students to see the world through their own distinctive eye.

Artists who participate in the program are at various stages in their careers and work in all disciplines, including the visual, performing, literary, technical and interdisciplinary arts. 

About the Arts Bridging Cultures Series

The Arts Bridging Cultures Series is an initiative by the English Language Institute (ELI) to promote cross-cultural interaction and create a campus in which the lives of students are enriched through meaningful, experiential exploration of diversity.

The increased presence of students from diverse background presents numerous challenges but, more importantly, provides unique opportunities for cross-cultural exchange.

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Syrian painter and sculptor Emad Hemede discussed his work at UD's Arts Bridging Culture event that highlighted the sights and sounds of Syria.

Syrian painter and sculptor Emad Hemede, UD's international artist in residence, spoke with students and other visitors at an exhibit of his work that launched the Arts Bridging Culture series on campus.

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