February 1, 2019
The University of Michigan-Dearborn’s Center for Arab American Studies (CAAS) presents Halal Metropolis: Exploring Muslim Visibility in Detroit, a three-year artistic and discussion-based exploration of how Muslim culture has enriched key public spaces in Detroit. The project is organized by CAAS director Sally Howell, photographer, activist Razi Jafri, and artist and MFA Program Director at the Penny W. Stamps School of Art & Design Osman Khan.
The project will culminate in a 2019-2021 exhibition that will focus on the streetscapes, sartorial displays, spoken word traditions, vernacular architecture, storefronts, and other means through which Muslims communicate their presence to one another and to non-Muslims. This project is supported by the Knight Foundation, the Doris Duke Foundation, the Community Foundation of SE Michigan, and the Michigan Humanities Council.
The Arab American News reported on the project:
“Khan, also an art professor at the University of Michigan, said the art probes at the realities, desired ideals, and the fiction surrounding Muslim Americans and what it means to be an immigrant.
As an artist, Khan said he’s interested in the juxtaposition between what Muslim Americans aim to achieve and the perceived threat they invoke from some Americans about Muslims’ desire to implement Sharia law.
He said some of the art challenges the pan-Muslim narrative that all Muslims are united on the issues and touches on intra-community tensions. Other pieces depict Muslim immigrants as heroic figures who once saved a crumbling city and ponders how they might fit into the future of Michigan and the revitalization of Detroit, while others reflect on internalized thoughts and the contemporary condition of Muslims in America.
That could include fictional stories, archival photos of Detroit clubs that adopted Muslim-sounding names to sound exotic, literature, letters and prayer rugs or a photo series exploring the embarrassment Muslim American children feel after bringing ethnic food to lunch at school, Khan added.
“Our narrative is usually [depicted as] black or white or are not told at all, yet are very visible,” he said.
He added that part of the exhibit’s goal is to explore how Muslim art could continue to move into the 21st Century.
“To understand our identity, we have to look back at the traditional aesthetic, but also how we move into the future and allow for a Muslim aesthetic to emerge in a contemporary situation.”