Rumi symposium highlights multiculturalism through music, poetry and dance

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Students and faculty gathered in the Chamberlain Student Center pit Tuesday night for the Rumi symposium. The symposium was a tribute to the poet and historical figure Rumi, whose message of love towards all men, as one race, still echoes today.

A small student combo jazz group, two performers of classical Indian dance and a world music group performed for the event.

At 8 p.m., the small combo jazz band performed their well-organized music from various cultures. The quintet consisted of two alto saxophone players, a trumpeter, a trombonist and a drummer. Their set of five songs was a hit with the audience and got the symposium off to an upbeat start.

The headlining speaker, Jawid Mojaddedi, a professor of religion at Rutgers University, was unable to attend the event due to transportation difficulties and sent his deepest apologies.

Next, professor Maria Rosado of the Sociology and Anthropology Department introduced the Indian classical dancers Arpita Mukherjee and Baishali Kanjilal.  Mukherjee received an Indian National Scholarship in Indian Classical Dance and has performed solo as a featured artist all over India in national level festivals. Also, Kanjilal, according to Rosado, is a first-class graduate in classical dance and has performed at prestigious festivals in both India and Kenya. Dancing to Rumi’s poetry, these two expressed five main ideas; nature and science being like an elaborate dance, womanhood, human existence, social equality and a poem about an untouchable woman by Indian national poet Rabindranath Tagore.

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During their performance, there were significant technical difficulties with the audio, and Mukherjee, who was visibly frustrated, stopped her dance and helped to resolve the issue. In the meantime, the audience was excused and were given free food from nearby Middle-Eastern and Asian restaurants. Unfortunately, once the technical difficulties were resolved, much of the audience did not return after getting their food.

The final performance was from a world music group who performed a set of five Eastern inspired songs. Their instruments were all foreign folk instruments as well, including the kemenche, a violin-like instrument, an oud, like a guitar, a darbuk, like a bongo, a qanun, similar to a lap steel guitar, and a ney, similar to a flute. Their performance created a beautiful atmosphere with their ethnic sounds and was well received by the audience.

Nurcan Acikgoz, 29, a graduate of Rutgers University, said, “Rumi is one of my favorite poets, and I wanted to see how this event went about introducing him. Unfortunately, I missed the beginning, but I was able to see the rest of it.”

Acikgoz herself is Turkish and felt very moved by the performances.

“It was very uplifting to me. I felt like I had a good night of music, a good night [where] it was making me feel connected [to] love. The best way to describe it is getting yourself out of a box in an environment where you can see yourself, just yourself and feel how you feel,” she said. 

Professors Gardy Guiteau, J.T. Mills and Iman Noshadi worked together to make the Rumi symposium happen. Guiteau gave credit to Noshadi, noting that the symposium was his brainchild and felt that this cultural experience would be a great event to have at Rowan.

“The knowledge, and the culture, and the ways of making meaning and seeing the world that that point of view brings is useful to us,” Guiteau said. “As a community, as a campus, to be able to shift our focus to be able to see the world not just through our own lens, but through somebody else’s.”

A famous quote by Rumi sums up the night: “I belong to no religion. My religion is love, every heart is my temple.”

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