Cultural Glimpse

Enjoying diversity

Tag: Arts

Real Talent Lives in My Neighborhood

Sabah Wazi 2Today I went to Wazi’s Rug Shop to pick up a gift that talented artists Sabah Selou Wazi made for me. Sabah is one of sixteen artists I interviewed for my upcoming book, Iraqi Americans: The Lives of the Artists. Because the shop is only a few blocks from my house, I mostly interviewed Sabah at his shop.

Each time I go into the shop, I feel I’m entering a small museum. Sabah has a studio in the back of the and his artwork is displayed in various corners in the front. Being surrounded by Babylonian and Sumerian artwork makes you want to wander around, and basically, not leave. When visitors admire his work, Sabah takes the opportunity to introduce and educate them to the rich history and culture of Mesopotamia. Doing so has become dearer to him since the horrific attempts to destroy Iraq’s heritage.

About a month ago, Sabah told me that he made clay tablets with cuneiform writing, replicas of those made during ancient Babylonian and Sumerian times. He passed them out for free during the opening of the Keys Grace Academy in Madison Heights. Grace Academy is the first Chaldean charter school in the United States. He told me he would make some tablets for me and my family. Today I picked up these four tablets.

Aside from being impressed by the detail of his work, so many feelings went through me as I held the stones that resemble those made thousands of years ago by my ancestors, who invented the first writing system.  There was a mixture of awe and wonder, a real closeness to my birth country, but also a little sadness to what has happened to that land. By the time I returned home, the sadness was gone and all that was left was joy – joy at having a number of real talented artists live in my neighborhood and doing their part in keeping the memory of the Cradle of Civilization alive.

Sabah Wazi

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Working Towards Your Passions

Nina

“As a teacher I employ art, not as a mere subject but rather a holistic experience to cultivate knowledge.  Entering into a sensory experience that is informative, thought provoking, and idea inducing provides one an opportunity to be inquisitive, contemplative, and theoretical. This is the territory into true learning that I wish to navigate my students through.”

These are words that Nina Caruso, a mother of three children, wrote in her thesis paper. She is finishing her bachelor’s for Studio Arts Education at Oakland University, which would qualify her to teach K-12 for art. Next year she and her daughter will be graduating college.

I met Nina years ago at a poetry group and as mothers trying to pursue our passions, we immediately connected. I remember at the time Nina was working full-time as a pre-K teacher with the Waldorf Education.

“The economy went bad, and it was not picking up again,” she said. “The school lost many families and they let some of the teachers go.”

Nina was one of the teachers they let go and that was a blessing in disguise. Otherwise, she would not have pursued her dreams.

“As mothers, we don’t get rewarded for our hard work,” she said. “By going back to school, I was rewarding myself. It was very cathartic. You have to feed yourself or you’ll burn out.”

Last week Nina’s work was part of an exhibition at Oakland University, where seniors show their work. I was sent an invite, and reading her name on the exhibitor list, I was impressed and inspired by her accomplishments. I called her and asked, “How did you do it?”

“I feel it’s important for people not to brood about the bad and to do what’s good,” she said. “It’s all work anyways. Whether you go against the current or fight for the good – it’s all work.”

While Nina is a little sad to be finishing the coursework she really enjoyed, she’s ready to enter her major as a teacher.

“I look at an artist and an educator as the same,” she said. “Educators are very creative in how they teach students to learn and artists find ways to enter into people’s sensory experience for them to learn. It can meet us where we need to be met. There are no rules. The artist might have had an intent but the receiver or viewer will get what they needed out of it.”