Counter Current16: Molla Nasreddin: Embrace Your Antithesis // Slavs And Tatars

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Counter Current16: Molla Nasreddin: Embrace Your Antithesis // Slavs And Tatars
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Cynthia Woods Mitchell Center for the Arts says
Presented in partnership with Asia Society Texas Center

Published until 1931, in the geo-political and religious hotbed of the Caucuses, Molla Nasreddin was a satirical Azerbaijani weekly periodical named after a legendary Sufi wise man-cum-fool of the Middle Ages. With an acerbic sense of humor and full of compelling, realist illustrations, Molla Nasreddin attacked the hypocrisy of the Muslim clergy, the colonial policies of the United States and European nations, and the corruption of the local elite. Meanwhile it argued for Westernization, educational reform and equal rights for women. The magazine—full of jokes, parody and a steady skewering of traditional and elitist hypocrisy—became the most influential and perhaps first publication of its kind to be read across the Muslim world, from Morocco to India.

In 2011, Slavs and Tatars published Molla Nasreddin: the magazine that would’ve, could’ve, should’ve, a translation, reprinting, and examination of much of the magazine’s most compelling pages and covers. The lecture–performance Molla Nasreddin: Embrace Your Antithesis includes a discussion of the book’s historical context, a case study of the complexity of the Caucasus and the issue of self-censorship a century ago and today.

Slavs and Tatars, founded in 2006, is an art collective whose work addresses the little-known affinities, syncretic ideas, belief systems and language politics between the former Berlin Wall and the Great Wall of China. Their work has been exhibited around the globe, from the Museum of Modern Art to the Istanbul Modern, the Vienna Secession to The Centre Pompidou. An introduction to their book on Molla Nasreddin in The New York Review of Books can be read here.

Molla Nasreddin is one of the final lecture-performances given between January and April 2016 by the collective Slavs and Tatars as part of the INTERSECTIONS initiative. INTERSECTIONS is a program of the University of Houston Cynthia Woods Mitchell Center for the Arts, which seeks to build bridges between visiting artists and Houston’s Muslim and non-Muslim residents, with a focus on the millennial population. These lectures question commonly held assumptions about history, politics, linguistics and identity.

INTERSECTIONS is made possible in part by the Association of Performing Arts Presenters; Building Bridges: Campus Community Engagement Grants Program, a component of the Doris Duke Charitable Foundation and Doris Duke Foundation for Islamic Art.

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By: Cynthia Woods Mitchell Center for the Arts

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