Middle Eastern Festival to Enrich Chicago

8/18/2005 7:48:50 AM

Chicago – On the 27th & 28th of August, Chicago's Lincoln Park will be transformed into a lively and festive bazaar featuring a rich array of Middle Eastern cultures. The festival, entitled Hamsa – From the Middle East to the Midwest , organized by the Chicago-based non-profit Genesis at the Crossroads (GATC), promises to give Chicagoans a rare taste of Middle Eastern culture featuring dance, music, visual arts, storytelling, literature and cuisine.

With a special performance by notable Persian musician Shahin (Shahin & Sepehr) on Saturday night, a raffle which includes the jewelry of Ani Afshar, and the involvement of PersianMirror.com, Shabeh Jomeh and Babak and Friends, the organizers of Hamsa are excited about the prospects of a strong turn-out from the Chicago Iranian community.

Of course the line up for the festival promises to entertain and enrich attendees from all backgrounds with a colorful mix of original art and artists from Iran, Palestine, Jordan, Iraq, Syria, Egypt, Morocco and Israel among others. For children, the festival will feature camel rides (!), as well as calligraphy, drumming and dance workshops. Additionally famed storyteller, Patricia Hruby Powell, has been commissioned by the festival to read stories from the Arabian Nights, and Babak and Friends will make a special appearance at the children's tent on both dates of the festival.

Beyond the carnival-like events for kids, there is a mind-boggling program chock full of artistic programs that are impressive in both their scope and depth. In addition to Shahin, music acts will include New York-based Pharaoh's Daughter (Arabic and Sephardic), Turkish musician Omar Faruk Tekbilek , the Milwaukee multicultural Children of the Sea Choir , and Chicago favorites Alberto Mizrahi (one of the world's leading cantors) and Howard Levy among others. The festival will also feature dance performances by the Assyrian Hakkery Cultural Dance Troupe . As a special feature, the festival will also host a unique exhibition of contemporary art works by Iraqi artists working in Baghdad. The art works subsequently will be auctioned with proceeds benefiting the artists, themselves.

The headline act of the festival is a unique and heart-warming collaboration between Palestinian vocalist and oud player Naser Musa , and Israeli composer, violinist and oud player Yair Dalal (who performed at the 1994 Nobel Peace Prize ceremony) augmented by the Chicago Classical Oriental Ensemble . In addition, GATC has commissioned Dalal, along with fellow Israeli artist Avi Agababa, to write original pieces of music expressly for the festival. For those outside of Chicago, following the festival this performance will tour, playing three additional venues: the Kennedy Center in Washington, DC, the Brooklyn Museum of Art in New York, and the Skirball Center in Los Angeles. Their performance will also be highlighted as part of the United Nations 60th Anniversary celebration A Time For Renewal . The press release for the tour can be found at www.rockpaperscissors.biz/go/bridge and tickets can be purchased in advance at gatc.org .

A central objective of the festival - as well as GATC itself - is to help bridge cultures in conflict through the arts. Founded in 1999, the mission of GATC is to foster awareness, appreciation and celebration of cultural diversity and to create diversity education programs in both public and private schools. The organization is strictly non-political and non-religious and, given the current global political climate and the nature of most media coverage on the Middle East, the importance of the Hamsa festival and ensuing national tour cannot be understated. As GATC founder and Executive Director Wendy Sternberg says “the cost of misunderstanding is devastating in the world today…it is more pressing than ever that we encourage positive dialogue between peoples, and showcase the good that all cultures can create.”

Event Information


When: Saturday, August 27, Noon - 9:00 pm

Sunday, August 28, Noon - 7:00 pm

Location: Chicago - Lincoln Park

(just south of the Lincoln Park Farm in the Zoo to Stockton & LaSalle Streets)

Fee: The festival is open to the public

Suggested donation is $5-10

Children under 5 are free

For more information, go to www.gatc.org