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Saudi instructor at Harvard organizes art show

At the end of the Islamic Calligraphy course Huda Totonji gave at Harvard, the Saudi instructor organized a show to exhibit the art pieces her students created, recently in Riyadh.
The art show was held at Harvard Gallery from Feb. 27 unitl March 13.
The Harvard Extension School offered the course in collaboration with the Prince Alwaleed bin Talal Islamic Studies Program at Harvard University. Totonji is the first Saudi to lecture at Harvard. “Islamic art is a deep well that contemporary artists can draw from,” said Krystina Friedlander, the program assistant for Prince Alwaleed Program. “Huda Totonji’s range of styles exemplifies this, as do her students. Arabic calligraphy is not easy and takes many years to master. Yet this show suggests that students familiar with the medium can produce stunning calligraphic art.” To Totonji, the entire process was a great experience.
“Finding a suitable gallery to exhibit the artwork, getting the acceptance and the space in time before my travels overseas, collaborating with different departments, working together with students, faculty, staff, and administrators was amazing. All of this was just a blessing.
Selecting the artwork for the show was the easiest part of the process, because all the students created beautiful work of exhibit quality. This is what drove me to have the show in the first place. Getting all the work to the gallery space was the most challenging part of this process. Students who took this class were living in different states and it was hard to reach them to deliver their work in time for the show.
I am glad it all worked out. Most of the work made it to the show.”
The instructor said she would not easily forget some of the comments she received on the show.
“You showed the beauty of Islam through art,” was one of them. Another one was, “I learned a lot just from the talk, even though I studied Arabic calligraphy at Stanford University.” An oft-repeated remark was, “How did they create all this beautiful work within such a short period of time?”
Aliyah Jones, one of the students, said, “I liked everything about the calligraphy course. It was culturally enriching. I learned a lot from the other students in the class. It involved everything from art to religion, culture, science — you name it. This class had it all. I just wish it had been longer.”

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