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The Arts of Islam in Africa Initiative (AIA)

ISITA is launching a new, multidisciplinary initiative that will examine and increase awareness of artistic traditions that are among the most profound yet remarkably accessible aspects of Africa’s Islamic heritage. From calligraphy to clothing, music to mosque architecture From calligraphy to clothing, music to mosque architecture, poetry and the psalmody of the Qur'an to pottery, painting, weaving, and digital media, these arts embody and bring together African Islamic cosmologies, talismanic sciences, metaphysics, mythology, material cultures, ethics, histories, and much more. They point to deeper understandings of the history, politics, socio-economics, values, worldviews, personal experiences, and philosophies of the artists and their communities and traditions. While these artistic traditions are vital and popular on the continent and abroad, they are relatively understudied and under-appreciated in the academy. 

In April 2019, ISITA hosted a brainstorming and planning session at Northwestern to formalize the initiative, assess the current state of the field, and chart an agenda of research and activities. More information about AIA will be available on the website in coming months.

Founding Members of AIA

  • Zekeria Ahmed Salem, director, ISITA; associate professor of political science, Northwestern University 
  • Michelle Apotsos, assistant professor of art, Williams College 
  • Kathleen Bickford Berzock, associate director of curatorial affairs, Block Museum of Art, Northwestern University
  • Christine Dang, assistant professor of arts and sciences (musicology), New-York University
  • Mark DeLancey, associate professor, history of art and architecture; director, Islamic World Studies, DePaul University
  • Lisa Homann, assistant professor of art history, University of North Carolina, Charlotte
  • Wendell Marsh, post-doctoral fellow, Buffett Institute, Northwestern University; assistant professor of African American and African Studies, Rutgers University
  • Mauro Nobili, assistant professor of history, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign
  • Oludamini Ogunnaike, assistant professor of religious studies, College of William and Mary
  • Matthew Rarey, assistant professor of art history, Oberlin College
  • Abdourahmane Seck, anthropology and history, Faculty of Civilizations, Arts, Religions, and Communications, Université Gaston Berger de Saint Louis
  • Rebecca Shereikis, associate director, ISITA, Northwestern University
  • Leila Tayeb, Stanford H. Taylor Postdoctoral Associate in Music and Islam in the Contemporary World, department of music, Cornell University