Middle East and North African Symposium to Discuss Art and Social Change
This year’s symposium, which runs from March 14 through 16, features a student panel showcasing academic work plus three guest speakers, including a Libyan princess, a U.S. ambassador, and a rapper/poet/activist/chaplain.
by Tara Elsa BA ’26
Lewis & Clark’s ninth annual student-run Middle East and North African Symposium will explore the relationship between art and social change in the region. The symposium, which takes place March 14 to 16, provides an opportunity for students to showcase their research and hear from outside speakers and scholars.
The symposium was originally created by the Middle East Initiative, a student organization that was established to advocate for the now-existing Arabic language program and Middle East and North African (MENA) studies minor. The symposium also goes hand-in-hand with the Morocco overseas study program by giving participating students an opportunity to present their work.
This year’s symposium is cochaired by Jade Weihz BA ’23, an international affairs major, and Claire Baco BA ’25, who’s considering an economics or computer science major. Oren Kosansky, associate professor of anthropology, is the event’s faculty advisor.
“I think the theme of art and social change is really relevant,” says Weihz. “Part of the reason I suggested it was because of the anti-government protests going on in Iran. I’ve been seeing a lot of art come out of those protests. It’s such an important way to express what’s going on.”
This year’s event features three guest speakers. The symposium’s keynote speaker is Princess Alia Al-Senussi, an active member of the contemporary art world, who focuses on young patronage and arts and culture in the Middle East. The other guest speakers are Tulinabo S. Mushingi, U.S. Ambassador to Angola and Sao Tome and Principe; and Mona Haydar, who practices “a life of sacred activism, poetry, contemplation, and advocacy for living gently upon the Earth.”
The symposium also includes a student panel featuring MENA-related academic work.
“I’ve grown up in an art-filled environment, with both my parents involved in art-based careers,” says Weihz. “It’s always been an important part of my life. I’m happy that chairing the symposium has given me the opportunity to educate others about something I’m interested in in MENA studies.”