Synopsis of 4 day Islam Expo SA 2009
‘I don’t understand what I am looking at, but it speaks to me’. These words were uttered by a visitor whilst looking at a painting of Achmat Soni, an exhibitor at the 4 day Islam Expo SA which was held at the CTICC, Hall 4A from the 11th – 14th June 2009.
These powerful words epitomized the theme ‘From Slavery to Citizenship’, where descendants of slaves re-affirmed their citizenship as Capetonians and South Africans.
The aim of the expo was to showcase the rich cultural and historical heritage of Muslims by focusing on the abolition of slavery, the contributions of Muslims to Afrikaans, the social and political struggle of the Muslims towards democracy in South Africa, and the current contributions within the socio-economic and political sphere of society.
Islam Expo SA 2009 had as its partners the National Department of Arts and Culture, The City of Cape Town, The Muslim Judicial Council and Exhibition Islam UK.
In essence we witnessed an exhibition within an exhibition, whereby Exhibition Islam UK utilized 574 square metres of space and had their own exhibition display within the bigger exhibition of Islam Expo SA 2009, which had a children’s corner, an educational section, a social welfare section, a cultural / historical section, a judiciary section, health and well-being section.
Upon entering the expo, natural landscaping and dramatic gold drapes welcomed the visitors and ushered them into the hall which housed 66 cubicles. The flow of the exhibition was from historical to cultural to judiciary, to the core of the big exhibition, viz Exhibition Islam UK
Exhibition Islam was the highlight of Islam Exhibition SA 2009. Their display on Islam, housed priceless manuscripts including Qur’ans, Bibles and Torahs as well as Islamic Coins and information on Biology, Astronomy, Egyptology and Mathematics within the Qur’an and this proved to be very interesting and fascinating to visitors of all walks of life. The in depth guided tours by members of Exhibition Islam added much value to the experience of the visitor who was able to ask questions to the guides as the tour progressed. At the Opening Ceremony Minister Laluma Xingwana, National Minister of Arts and Culture, praised the Exhibition Islam Team for their magnificent attention to historical and artistic detail and found the Exhibition Islam Tour to be necessary and important in bringing people of different religious and cultural backgrounds together. The Consul General of the Chinese Embassy was so surprised to see the Qur’an translated into Chinese and was fascinated to understand what various verses of the Qur’an means. Upon leaving the Exhibition Islam Display, visitors could purchase books and these were sold out by the second day of the exhibition, another indication of the popularity of what was on offer at the Exhibition Islam Display at Islam Expo SA 2009.
There was a trade area for visitors to enjoy books, scarves and modest Islamic dress. The stage area provided the setting for DVD’s and lectures by both local and International guests including Dr Fadel Soliman of Egypt, Preacher Moss of the USA and Dr Sulaiman Dangor of the Kwazulu Natal.
Dr Fadel Soliman of the Bridges Foundation in Egypt directed a documentary ‘The Fog is Lifting’ which focuses on the aftermath of the 9/11 attack on America and the impact it has had on Muslims worldwide.
Preacher Moss, the founder of Allah Made Me Funny, entertained visitors with his sharp wit and brutal honesty about being a Muslim in America post 9/11
Dr Sulaiman Dangor spoke about Cultural Diversity and that the understanding of each other’s culture can bring about better social cohesion, all we need to do is find the common ground and take it from there.
The Children’s corner attracted a lot of interest due to the colour, sound and spirit of the Kaleidoscope Team with bookmarks that could be made, to the colour-in by the children and the videos and Islamic songs that were audible all day long. Over and above this section, the Saturday morning was a hive of activities when parents brought their children for a special 3hr session of fun and games, the Islamic way, which included an appearance by Zaky the bear, a cartoon character of One Islam Productions, that teaches young children the importance of morals in daily life.
Sunday morning saw an exquisite Islamic Art Workshop led by Mahmudah Beggam Jaffer of SALHA Designs. All participants were given a pack that was sponsored by Albaraka Bank. These packs enable the participants to draw, trace and experience Islamic Art in a way that they never realized was within them.
Sunday Afternoon saw the International Premier of the Golden Vision Production, The Wall in my Heart. This is an animated movie about the struggle of Palestinians on a daily basis.
After 4 days of public painting, Soni Art Studios completed their masterpiece which was the first ever of such attempts, whereby Achmat Soni, Shaheen Soni and Tasneem Soni collaborated on an Islamic Artwork which was auctioned at the unbelievable price of R25 000.00. All proceeds went towards Islam Expo SA 2009.
All in all, the general feeling was one of appreciation that Islam and the Muslims of Cape Town and South Africa were portrayed in the manner that they were, viz, as steadfast, motivated, dedicated people from a driven community where indeed we moved ‘From Slavery to Citizenship’.