On the first year anniversary of its founding, Al Waref Institute, in partnership with the Georgetown University Lecture Fund, held an Arabic and English poetry reading celebration on January 21 featuring award-winning poets May Rihani and Saleh Majeed.
Marah Bukai, President and Chair of Al Waref Insitute said in her opening remarks: "Today is Al Waref Institute's first year anniversary, and we are very grateful and honored to have this celebration co-sponsored by Georgetown University Lecture Fund and shared by all of you...In addition to celebrating our 1st year anniversary, we dedicate this evening for celebrating one of the most precious values we have, one of the most important values that Al Waref strives to preserve and promote: the right to freedom of expression. The ability to speak our minds, to express ourselves, especially to voice our inner yearnings and bold criticisms without fear of violent retaliation, is an indispensable pillar of a free society. Therefore this evening we will be enjoying the fruits of this exercise of our rights," she added.
May Rihani, a Lebanese poet and civil society leader, has facilitated several economic and educational projects, especially addressing gender issues, in underserved areas in countries as far flung as Jordan and Malawi to Uganda and Pakistan. Rihani presented a selection of poems inspired by her travels, which taught her, she explained to the audience prior to her readings, how much commonality there is in humanity, even as it coexists with our diversity. Rihani's selection explored themes like the blending and tensions of East and West, of now and nostalgia, through often short yet vivid containers of verse, each to be savored like a cup of English or Arabic tea.
Saleh Majeed, hailing from northern Iraq, is a poet and writer with numerous literary works and essays published in different local and international Arabic newspapers, magazines and web sites. The series of poems he presented during the evening examined the worlds of war, love, and loss. With bold and many witty turns of phrase, these themes were rolled out with a steady command of form and insight through a somewhat more modern adaptation of the canons of classical Arabic. The last poem of Majeed's series, recited in both its original Arabic and English translation, was a round condemnation of the tyranny of Saddam Hussein, and the legacy he left behind which continues to challenge today's Iraqis as so many valiantly work to rebuild their nation.
Al Waref Institute was honored to have among the event's attendees Iraqi Ambassador Samir Sumaida’ie, First Secretary Toni Frangie of the Embassy of Lebanon, and former Arab League Ambassador Clovis Maksoud.
At the conclusion of the event, on behalf of Al Waref Institute, founder and chair Marah Bukai presented the Figure of Month Award for January to May Rihani for her numerous accomplishments in civil society, and presented a Poetry Award to Saleh Majeed, for his daring and superb artistry that signals a new dawn in the literary arts of Iraq.