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Ismaili Arts Festival organized in Atlanta

December 2023
Ismaili Arts Festival organized in Atlanta

In mid-September, a throng of people crowded the entrance of the Rialto Center and formed a line that wrapped around the building for the United States Ismaili Arts (USIA) in Atlanta.

[Left] Dedicated volunteer organizers made the Southeast United States Ismaili Arts Festival a success.

On the first floor, there was an ornate handmade fountain with the USIA logo. Beyond that hung art pieces of various sizes by artists of a range of ages from elementary school students to senior citizens. Various mediums for visual arts, including canvas, photography, paper, AI-assisted art, 3D sculptures, and pottery, were also on display at the art gallery. Among them was a piece by Laila Rajpari titled “A perspective on Heritage: Caring from the eyes of Maulana Rumi” with intricate calligraphy and a quote, “Be like a sun for grace and mercy. Be like running water for generosity. Be like the Earth for Money. Disappear as you are. Be a gatekeeper.”

AT_New_16_12_23.jpgIn the upstairs auditorium, the crowds poured through to remain bewitched by what equaled two days of USIA performances from over 350 Ismaili Muslim artists from across the southeast region at this event. Thousands from across the region attended the festival whose central theme was care. Artists were free to interpret this theme as they wished, and many chose care for the environment, care for self, or care for one another. The diverse artistic expressions demonstrated the pluralistic nature of the Ismaili community which hails from across the world.

[Right] Attendees view the art gallery at the United States Ismaili Arts Festival at the Rialto Center.


The festival included a display of films and performances from artists including musicians, performers, and filmmakers from Georgia, Alabama, Tennessee, and the Carolinas. For instance, Director Haaris Pramani’s film Nanu Aur Main depicted the relationship of a girl named Erum with her doting grandfather, Qavi Khan, post the death of her parents.

[Left]  Atlanta City Council Member Jason Winston acknowledges the Ismaili Council’s contribution for promoting arts and culture through the United States Ismaili Arts Festival.


Zaisha Charania’s love for instrumental music led her to perform a Bollywood song on the Indian instrument, dhol.

Dance group ATL Mazboot enacted a play to demonstrate selfcare portraying how we often grow overwhelmed with life and neglect our own needs. “Throughout our entire time in the studio, we wanted to give our best, give 100 percent, and make sure that with what we’re putting out, we touch each audience member’s heart,” said Aleem Lalani, a dancer with ATL Mazboot.

AT_New_17_12_23.jpg“The festival was teeming with a sense of pride and admiration,” said Zahra Shariff, a juror liaison at the art exhibit. “The time and thought that went into the event organization and layout, including things like the lighting and even the placards describing each art piece, all made for a great experience. Everyone from children to professional artists were joyful in their work.”

[Right] A group of young dancers perform at the United States Ismaili Arts Festival.

Performances and visual art pieces were judged by reputed artists, musicians, and filmmakers from around metro Atlanta. “The Arts Festival was an inspiring reminder of what performance has the power to be,” said award-winning comedian, filmmaker, and educator Mark Kendall who served as a judge. “It was an honor to witness people of all ages and experience levels come together to encourage and care for one another through words, song, and dance,” said Kendall.

AT_New_15_12_23.jpg“I’m glad that we were able to give artists a platform and help them recognize their gift of creative expression,” said Shyna Punjani, Project Manager for the USIA. “As people were leaving the shows, we couldn’t even count the praises. The audience also recognized the talent within our community.” 

[Right] A group of young dancers perform at the United States Ismaili Arts Festival.

Top contenders from USIA will qualify to participate in the national USIA festival in Houston in January 2024, from which finalists will represent the United States at the Global Encounters Ismaili Arts Festival in Dubai in July 2024.

—Saif Sarfani


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Submitting your report for consideration in Around Town

Please send post event reports for consideration in the Around Town section to AroundTown@khabar.com. Publication of reports is based on several criteria including the volume of reports submitted for a given issue. Guidelines for the reports are on our website at http://www.khabar.com/magazine/around-town/guidelines_for_submitting_reports_to_around_town. Deadline: 15th of each month—for consideration in the following month. However, chances of inclusion are better if reports are received well in advance of the deadline – where possible, e.g. within 3-7 days of the event.

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