Remarkable, brilliant and moving, “Tafelmusik: Tales of Two Cities,” presented within the Leipzig-Damascus Coffee House, celebrated Toronto’s connection with Syrians who have recently come to start a new life in Canada. This spectacular event was in collaboration with live music from 1700s Leipzig and Damascus.
Tafelmusik double bassist Alison Mackay, who conceived, programmed, and scripted the show, consulted with NMC professors Jim Reilly and Jeannie Miller to develop background notes, literary and historical contexts for the program. Since the show worked directly with the heritage of Damascus, Tafelmusik generously donated a large number of tickets to a youth program for Syrian newcomers to Toronto organized by NMC-CESI. This allowed Syrian-Canadian youth to attend the show with University of Toronto volunteers.
The Gadachrili Gora Regional Archaeological Project Expedition (G.R.A.P.E.) is currently underway. The excavation, co-directed by the University of Toronto NMC Senior Research Associate, Dr. Stephen Batiuk (NMC Ph.D.), and Andrew Graham, provides students with an opportunity to earn their NMC261 field school credit.
The dig, which is a joint effort between the University of Toronto, The National Wine Agency of Georgia and The Georgian National Museum, provides training to help both Georgian and Canadian students develop applied archaeological field techniques and recording practices in collaboration with established theoretical frameworks.
With a team of almost 40 students, staff and volunteers, the excavation has been rapidly exposing the site‘s Neolithic village. The material the G.R.A.P.E. team collects will be analysed to gain new insights into how viticulture contributed to the development of the Shomu-Shulaveri Culture within the South Caucuses. Patrick McGovern, (Adjunct Professor of Anthropology at the University of Pennsylvania), will complete the residue analysis on the ceramic vessel bases from both levels of occupation at the site. Tom Gilbert and Nathan Wales at the University of Copenhagen will be conducting DNA testing on seeds found at the site.
The G.R.A.P.E. team includes communications specialists dedicated to sharing information about the project with the public. Jane Dong, Intern with the Institute for Management and Innovation’s Incubator, ( I-CUBE at UTM) will be employing 360 virtual reality videography to create teaching resources for archaeology. While G.R.A.P.E.s Community Engagement Coordinator, Camille Leon Angelo, (a recent graduate of the NMC department) is disseminating information about the project through local initiatives and social media channels, including Youtube, Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram. Special thanks for the support for this endeavour provided by CCIT at UTM.
Professor Amir Harrak was recently appointed a UNESCO Chair of Interreligious Dialogue at the University of Kufa, located in the Shiite holy city of Najaf. He provided six lectures, four on stories in the Koran, including the story of Dhu-al-Qarnayn (the Two-horned Alexander the Great) and Ashab al-Kahf or the story of the Sleepers of Ephesus, both also known in early Syriac literature. The lectures were particularly well attended by students, professors, and departmental Chairs. Professor Harrak also had the opportunity to attend a meeting held by the University President, Prof. Akeel Yasin, M.Sc. (UK), PhD (UK), and as acknowledgement of Harraks lectures, the university offered him the beautiful University of Kufas emblem, now exhibited on the second floor of the NMC department.
Professor Harrak was also the distinguished guest of the Ataba al-Alawiyya, the highest Religious Establishment in Najaf. He had ample opportunity to talk about religious dialogue, highlighting shared traditions in Judaism, Christianity, and Islam. The openness of young generations of Shiite clergymen to other religions and traditions was impressive, and as an expression of friendship and appreciation, Prof. Harrak was taken to visit the monumental shrine of the Imam Ali in Najaf and that of the Imam Hussein in Kerbala.
Recent NMC graduate Nadia Bakhtiari, (HBA 2015, Victoria College) dedicated her time at U of T to support refugees. As an undergraduate, Bakhtiari served as the event coordinator and president of the U of T Refugee Alliance. She also volunteered with the Canadian Centre for Victims of Torture and the Iranian Womens Organization of Ontario. She was recognized for her work by receiving the Gordon Cressy Student Leadership Award.
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