Check out LUMINOUS Black Muslim Arts Festival in Toronto This SaturdayWritten by Chelby Daigle
LUMINOUS A Black Muslim Arts Festival will be taking place on Saturday, June 16th. An Arts Festival mixed with an Eid Festival, the event aims to celebration Toronto's Black Muslim presence.
Muslim Link interviewed the visionary behind LUMINOUS, Timaj Garad, about her hopes for the festival.
1. How did you come up with the idea for a Black Muslim Arts Festival?
Through my lived experience as a Black Muslim and within my capacity as an Artist and Arts Educator working with Black Muslims, I’ve continually witnessed attempts to relegate Black Muslims through silencing and tokenizing us in communities that claim to be our safe havens. This happens in Muslim (predominately) non-black spaces as well as Black (pre-dominately) non-Muslim spaces, and of course, everywhere else.
In response, there is a lot of talk within our community, and rightfully so, of “taking up space” - entering a space that wrongfully excludes us by it’s design and asserting our right to exist and thrive within it, so basically, the tedious work of existing as Black and Muslim in virtually every space we regularly find ourselves in. I wanted to adjust spaces in ways that didn’t necessitate the taxing need to always push through them.
That’s when I decided to create a space that we didn’t feel like we needed to “take up” because we could just be in the space as we are, no explanations or straining to belong necessary. There’s so much power and peace in just being able to come as you are - I wanted to give that back to my community because we deserve it. We deserve to be celebrated in all our beauty and luminosity.
2. Are you working with any city or Muslim community partners? If so, how did these partnerships develop?
LUMINOUS Fest is partnered with Arts in the Parks Toronto and we are the first festival in their summer programming - a partnership was formed through our funders, the Toronto Arts Council (TAC). We have also partnered with the Black Muslim Initiative - a grassroots organization dedicated to advocacy, education, and resource development towards tackling anti-blackness and islamophobia at the intersections of Black Muslimness.
3. What artists can people look forward to seeing at the festival?
Our line-up for this festival is truely majestic. We’ll have Toronto-based artists across art forms including the unique sounds of Waleed Kush African Jazz Ensemble and incredible hip-hop nasheed duo Mustaqeem, Spoken Word artists like the sensational Naeema, and 5th place world poetry champion, Ifrah Hussein, as well as award-winning Poet Rowda Mohamud.
We’re also proud to host Faduma Mohamed who will perform excerpts of her critically acclaimed play ‘Oughtism’ and the awe-inspiring Actor, Writer, and Organizer, Khadjiah Salawu, also performing theatre. We’ll have a few surprise performers as well!
In addition to performances, we have arts-based workshops including a painting workshop by the multi-talented Aasiiyah, and a spoken word poetry workshop by powerhouse poet, Timaaj Hassen. Our festival will close with a panel discussion called Black Muslim Art Matters featuring multi-disciplinary innovative artists Riya Jama, Iman MJ, and Tendisai Cromwell.
4. What Black-owned businesses can people look forward to seeing at the bazaar?
We are excited to host a myriad of Black Muslim businesses and organizations through our 15 vendors. Rose’s Halal Kitchen - a Jamaican Halal restaurant - and Billisummaa Catering - an Oromo catering company - will be selling food for our festival.
We also have vendors promoting and selling services and products including but not limited to jewelry, artwork, accessories, henna, cosmetics, magazines, graphic T-shirts, and incense/home decor. Some of these businesses include, Ayan Art, Botxn Beauty, redolent Aromatics, Muse Avenue, MYVoice Magazine, Zainthebrain art, Savvy, Beautiful Treasures, and more!
5. What activities are available to young children at the festival?
We’re so excited about our Kidz Corner! We’ll have face painting, games like bean bag toss and mega jenga (a life-sized jenga game), mini golf, arts and crafts, bubble wands, jump rope, sidewalk chalk, and more!
6. Why would you recommend that Black Muslim community members attend the festival?
Black joy, black joy, black joy - because it heals. Also, it’s rare to feel a sense of belonging and to experience a space where both identities can coincide comfortably - unless of course that space is one created by Black Muslims. Routinely being othered is a dehumanizing experience and I want us to be able to be seen and celebrated.
I want us to gather and heal from all the ‘isms we collectively experience all the while engaging in intra-community building between Black Muslims across ethnic groups.
It’s very important to acknowledge that Black Muslims are not a monolith, we are a diverse group and must work towards eradicating internalized racism that plagues our communities and creates a reluctance for many to fully embrace each other, despite many shared experiences. It’s not our responsibility to teach others how to be kind to us, but it is our responsibility to be kind to each other.
7. Why would you recommend that Black community members who are not Muslim attend the festival?
Inter and intracommunity dialogue as we continue to resist the oppressions we all face as Black people but also acknowledge and build allyship towards the nauced experiences of anti-blackness with a Muslim identity attached to it. Islamophobia has permeated all communities, including non-Muslim black communities.
Black Muslims are often most targeted and routinely subjected to systemic violence, yet marginalized religious identity is rarely a part of the conversation in popular pro-black movements. This creates a sort of erasure that can only be remedied through knowing Black Muslims, and yes, that means learning the basics of our faith - at least the aspects of it that may affect the ways in which we access community. Through the festival, we hope to create a space where this connection can happen to build more authentic forms of solidarity and trust between one another. But also, it’ll be super fun, so come through.
8. Why would you recommend that Muslim community members who are not Black attend the festival?
A spiritual family that treats us as foreign is a deep cut. We learn that our beautiful faith contextualizes community as one part of a whole - we are told it’s like the body - when one part is sick the whole body suffers. Yet there is a numbness that the ummah (community) communicates with their silence of issues affecting Black Muslims. When not in silent disregard, we can often find loud denigration with words like “abeed” (translated as slave) still commonly used to refer to Black Muslims.
Though most non-black Muslims can recognize the atrociousness of these overt forms of anti-blackness, many still participate in quieter forms of the same toxicity. For example, South Asian or Arab identity being used as synonymous with Muslim identity is a classic microaggression that utterly escapes the awareness of the perpetrators. If the ummah is one body, then we as Black Muslims are having an out-of-body experience. A festival won’t return us. What this festival is designed to do is create space for Black Muslims to be known by the community and for our issues, our dreams, our needs, to be centered, because listening to our stories is the first step in engaging from a place of compassion and understanding. But also, it’ll be super fun, so come through.
9. Why is the festival a great space for interfaith and intercommunity dialogue and exchange?
The many communities we belong to - the ones that often hurt and alienate us - need to work on repairing the fractured relationship they have with Black Muslims by first listening to our stories and knowing us. What better way to do this than through the vibrant expressions of our artistic contributions? The stories we tell are vital insights into the challenges we face and our needs. As we work towards inclusion, it’s important to seriously reflection on these stories, for their impact to not only be a fleeting moment of awe but a call to action. We will further unpack this need with our panel discussion - Black Muslim Art Matters - featuring Filmmaker Tendisai Cromwell, Designer, Iman MJ, and Mixed-Media Photographer, Riya Jama. I hope attendees who hope to build genuine allyship with Black Muslims will not just passively consume, rather make the intention to actively engage to challenging anti-blackness in their own communities.
10. Is there anything else you would like to add?
LUMINOUS Fest is happening Eid weekend, meaning we will be having Eid prayer in the park at 10am, kutbah by Imam Yasin Dwyer. However, if Eid falls on another day, we’re still on!
Please check the event page for regular updates.
LUMINOUS Fest is a brave project born in my mind but existing through the support of so many. Shoutout to my small but mighty team including Outreach and Volunteer Coordinator, Sakinah Hasib, and Administrative Assistant, Maymuna Mohamed - thank you for supporting this vision with your brilliance.
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