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Arabic Culture Night explores language

Abigail Hoverman | Friday, March 23, 2012

The fifth annual Arabic Culture Night this evening offers the Notre Dame community an opportunity to explore foreign cultures through student performances entirely in Arabic.

Ghada Bualuan, director of the Undergraduate Studies of the Department of Classics and Program of Arabic Languages, said the event offers an important dimension to the study of Arabic beyond learning in the classroom.

“We do teach culture in classrooms, but this is a small cultural experience to engage [students] with the culture so they can connect,” she said. “Culture is not only history and civilizations that they read in class, but it’s also the language they speak, the songs they sing, the poetry they recite.”

This years’ program offers a special focus on the Arab Spring protests, she said.

Senior Joe Dufour, president of Arabic Club, said multiple performances address this significant international development.

“This year the biggest influence has been the Arab Spring,” he said. “We incorporated this major political, cultural and social event.”

Dufour said his contribution, “The Dictator,” is a ten-minute play that addresses the revolutions of last year in a lighthearted manner.

“The Arab Spring was very big this year, and we thought it would be relevant to do a satirical play on life under dictatorship,” he said. “It has a powerful message in addition to being comedic.”

Bualuan said the poetry readings selected for tonight will also address the Arab Spring with controversial Syrian poetry.

“It’s the poetry of revolution,” she said. One poem was banned in Syria because it spoke against the dictator, a harsh regime, and a lack of freedom of speech and expression,” she said. “The other poem is a cry calling Arabs to unite together.”

Students participating in the event have taken leadership in writing, choreographing and film editing, involving themselves with the event more than ever before, Dufour said.

Dufour also said solo and duet vocal performances will showcase the advanced language ability of students.

“To have three students singing in Arabic, which is hard enough to speak, but to sing and do it well, is amazing,” he said.

Bualuan said she hopes both students and families enjoy the event.

“We try to reach out to the community because there is a large community of native Arabs in Michiana,” she said.

Even those who do not speak Arabic or study the Middle East can appreciate tonight’s performances, Bualuan said.

“Anyone who has any interest in the Middle East, is intrigued by the culture and politics of the Arab World or just wants to get a better sense of what it means to be Arab should come,” she said. “Arabs never cease to produce music, literature and other forms of culture infused with life experiences in time of prosperity and in hardship.”

She said the interconnectedness of societies is best learned from immersion in another culture.

“We all share the same humanity. We all seek happiness, peace and fulfillment,” Bualuan said. “We want people to connect with … what they’re feeling, facing and what challenges they have.”

The Arabic Culture Night will begin tonight at 6:30 p.m. in the Jordan Auditorium at Mendoza. Admission is free.