A view of the Aga Khan University, Karachi. Photograph: AKDN, designned by Thomas Payette

Thomas M. Payette, Renowned Architect, Dies Aged 90: His Design of the Aga Khan University was the Cornerstone of the Award-Winning Firm He Founded

Prepared by MALIK MERCHANT

We have learnt with immense sadness, through an obituary posted in Vineyard Gazette, that Thomas M. Payette, FAIA, renowned Cambridge architect and founder of Payette Associates, died on November 12, 2022, at the age of 90.

Raised in East Grand Rapids in Michigan, Tom studied at Michigan State University, where he received a degree in structural engineering. He married Ginny, his sweetheart from his grade school years, in 1954 and they moved to Cambridge, where Tom attended the Harvard Graduate School of Design. He received his Master’s in Architecture in 1960.

Thomas Payette
Thomas Payette (d. November 22, 2022), designed Aga Khan University

The obituary in Vineyard Gazette notes that, after graduating, Tom began working at Markus and Nocka. By 1965, he became president of the firm. It would later become Payette, an international design firm of more than 150 people. His selfless leadership and passion guided Payette into what it is today: an award-winning firm known for its leading design in hospitals, laboratories and universities. Included in its notable work is the Aga Khan Medical Center in Pakistan.

Over the three decades since its initial conception and planning, the Aga Khan University has withstood the test of time, growing and adapting to accommodate new emergent technology, political turmoil and cultural changes….A major force in the heart of the developing world of South Asia, the University represents both a link to the great Islamic academic traditions of the past and a bold, progressive action aimed at providing education and healthcare services to people in Pakistan and the surrounding region

JENNIFER HEGARTY, March 2019

In a short but illuminating piece published on the firm’s website under the title #PayetteForward: Our Roots with Aga Khan, Jennifer Hegarty notes the firm’s association with the Aga Khan University as follows:

“Our 30-year relationship with Aga Khan University has been a cornerstone of the firm we are today, a firm recognized by the AIA with the 2019 Architecture Firm Award. We are proud of the legacy of work we have produced and continue to develop with the Aga Khan University — which was the first of many fruitful international relationships in our portfolio.”

In her post, Jennifer also refers to the original master plan for the Aga Khan University and Thomas Payette’s continuous involvement with the institution in the ensuing years “to furthering the original vision through over 30 years and several master plan updates, keeping their pledge to the founders not only to keep the University true to cultural values, but to recognize the needs of the region in educating young people in the science of medicine and the care of patients.”

We invite our readers to learn more about Thomas Payette’s unique and extraordinary role in the design of the Aga Khan University by reading the following three illustrated pieces on the firm’s website:

Our readers join us in conveying our sincere condolences to all the members of the Payette family. In particular, our Ismaili readers will always remain grateful to Thomas M. Payette for playing such an important role in the planning, design and development of one of the most significant and cherished projects in the life of their beloved 49th Hereditary Imam, Mawlana Hazar Imam, His Highness the Aga Khan.

Date posted: November 23, 2022.

Featured photo at top of post: A view of the Aga Khan University, Karachi. Photograph: AKDN.

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Before departing this website please take a moment to review Simerg’s Table of Contents for links to hundreds of thought-provoking pieces on a vast array of subjects including faith and culture, history and philosophy, and arts and letters to name a few. Also visit Simerg’s sister websites Barakah, dedicated to His Highness the Aga Khan, and Simergphotos.

The editor may be reached via email at mmerchant@simerg.com.

(1) “What Ismailis Believe”; and (2) “Ask Me Anything” – A Special Program by Ismaili Institutions to Respond to Questions on Faith from Community Members

Special Series: “What Ismailis Believe”

The.Ismaili, the official website of the Ismaili Muslim community, recently started a series on the beliefs and practices of the Ismailis. We invite all our readers, Ismailis and non-Ismailis alike, to read the following articles published in the series so far:

(1) Article: Why Do Ismailis Recite Salawat for the Family of the Prophet Muhammad (PBUH)
(2) Video: The Exalted Status of the Ahl al-Bayt
(3) Video: Imam Ali in Islamic Traditions: No Hero Like Ali
(4) Video and article: Why do Ismailis Call Their Imam Khudavind

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“…if there are any questions do not hesitate to ask. It is much better to ask and receive an answer than to have a feeling of frustration inside you”

— Mawlana Hazar Imam, His Highness the Aga Khan

“Ask Me Anything”

Introduced by MALIK MERCHANT

If I am not mistaken, the Ask Me Anything (AMA) program has been active in Canada for quite some time — I have heard announcements in Jamatkhanas going back to pre-Covid-19 times — and I wonder how many Jamati members with questions pertaining to faith, beliefs and traditions have sought to seek answers to questions that have been or are on their minds. How much interaction, if any, is there between Jamati members today, and especially the youth, and those who are best equipped to answer their questions?

As a son of an Alwaez (Jehangir Merchant, d. 2018), who was also a religious education teacher, I recollect the frequency with which he was approached by members of the Jamat with questions, whether it was in Mozambique, Tanzania, Canada, the UK and in countries where he went for sermon duties. Often individuals would approach him in the Jamatkhana as he was about to depart but he patiently took his time to respond to the question. Both he and my mum (Mrs. Merchant, d. 2021) considered their students and members of the Jamat at the centre of their lives.

Of course, as a secondary school teacher, my dad would always engage in Q/A discussions with his students. If he did not have an answer, he would tell the students so and seek out a good and satisfactory response by conducting his own research or consulting with one of his learned colleagues. A leader of an Ismaili institution in Canada, in his tribute to my dad, wrote: “In the passing away of Alwaez Jehangir Merchant I have lost a confidant, a friend and a source of knowledge and wisdom that I will greatly miss. He was my Go-to person for Tariqah matters and was always willing to share.”

Often my parents would welcome Jamati members, young and old alike, to our homes to discuss religious issues and other personal and family matters that often required more time.

In my humble opinion, one of the most brilliant minds in my dad’s friend circle in Dar es Salaam was no other than Hassanali Bhaloo from Zanzibar, whose nickname was Din. A regular visitor to our home, he was an intellectual of the highest caliber, and although not a missionary, could take on any question on faith, science or ethic and answer it satisfactorily. He was also an outstanding Ginan reciter and watching him recite one in Jamatkhana would leave one with the impression he was in a heavenly realm.

On many occasions, the tone of questioning, especially on the part of youth, was harsh and while that would raise my dad’s eyebrows, Din would always respond with calmness and thoughtfulness that left the questioning student(s) with wonder and amazement. A very humble man, Din’s intellectual brilliance was recognized at a young age, and he was offered to study in one of America’s top schools upon completing his high school education. Alas, he had to forego the opportunity due to an untimely death in his family that forced him to attend to family matters for a number of years. He eventually joined the services of the Ismailia Association in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania, after the mid 1960’s and worked with my dad on many projects. My dad even placed me in his good hands to strengthen my religious knowledge, a few months before I departed Dar es Salaam.

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Ask Me Anything image in the Al-Akhbar newsletter. Simerg, News
Ask Me Anything image in the Al-Akhbar newsletter published in Canada.

Like Din in Dar es Salaam, we have many brilliant minds in the Ismaili Muslim community (Jamat) today who are highly qualified as ethicists, scientists as well as in Islamic and Ismaili studies as missionaries and scholars. I sincerely hope that the AMA team will revert to the right individuals to give direction to individuals who come forward with their questions or concerns, and not necessarily restrict the asking of questions only to the Waezeen, as the Al-Akhbar announcement reads.

The announcement about the Ask Me Anything program, dated November 6, 2022, appears in the latest two issues of the Al-Akhbar newsletter which is distributed among subscribers to announce local as well as national programs and events organized by Ismaili institutions which are of benefit to the Jamat. The announcement in Al-Akhbar is reproduced below and reads as follows: (please also read it at SOURCE)

“Have a question on faith that you need clarity on? The Ask Me Anything program is here to help. Do you need more guidance or resources on questions about the faith? The Ask Me Anything (AMA) program provides an accessible and virtual medium to ask a Waezeen for perspectives or resources on faith-based questions. Book a session either one-on-one or as a group (up to 5) to address questions on faith in a non-judgmental and safe space. Sign-up for spots are available for Saturday, November 26 or Sunday, November 27.”

My inspiration for writing this post comes from Mawlana Hazar Imam’s guidance that he gave to the students during his visit to Mombasa, Kenya, on October 4, 1959. Referring to the memorization of the Qur’an and Ginans, Mawlana Hazar Imam said:

“These pieces of memorization are good, and they are necessary in practice, but at the same time I want you to be able to understand your religion. And if there are any questions do not hesitate to ask. It is much better to ask and receive an answer than to have a feeling of frustration inside you.”

Thus, in keeping with Mawalana Hazar Imam’s wish, please do not feel reluctant to approach the Ask Me Anything program with your question. Please visit Al-Akhbar for further information and to register or click REGISTER for the next Ask Me Anything session go be held on November 25/26, 2022.

Date posted: November 13, 2022.
Last updated: November 15, 2022 (reformatting and link error.)

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If you are a Canadian resident and have a question, please click REGISTER for a follow-up meeting with an Alwaez as mentioned in the announcement. The Ask Me Anything program is an Ismaili institution initiative, and NOT a Simerg project. If you live outside Canada, please consult your local Ismaili newsletter to find out if a program such as the one offered in Canada is available in your country.

Before departing this website please take a moment to review Simerg’s Table of Contents for links to hundreds of thought-provoking pieces on a vast array of subjects including faith and culture, history and philosophy, and arts and letters to name a few. Also visit Simerg’s sister websites Barakah, dedicated to His Highness the Aga Khan, and Simergphotos.The editor may be reached via email at mmerchant@simerg.com.

ozina Ramji's book “Cooking with Mom.” Published by Litfire, September 2018, 122 pp. Available as paperback and hardcover.

Simerg’s Series on Books by Ismaili Authors: “Cooking with Mom,” by Rozina Ramji of Edmonton Honours Her Mom’s Mouth Watering Recipes

By MALIK MERCHANT

Simerg’s series entitled “Books by Ismaili Authors” continues with Rozina Ramji’s “Cooking with Mom.” We follow the same Q/A format as our earlier presentations of books written by Shamim Murji (Brampton), Mahmoud Hirji (Toronto), Zul Premji (Calgary), Azim Jiwani (Vancouver), Naznin Rahemtulla Hébert (Montreal), Shairoz Lakhani (London, UK), Shelina Shariff Zia (New York), Ali Lakhani (Vancouver), Nizar Sultan (Toronto), Nargis Fazal (Vancouver), Nazlin Rahemtulla (Vancouver), Azmina Suleman (Calgary), Alnasir Rajan (Mississauga), Shafeen Ali (USA), Mansoor Ladha (Calgary), Zeni Shariff (Toronto) and Shamas Nanji (Edmonton). We encourage Ismaili authors from around the world to participate in this series, regardless of when their books were published. See details of the series HERE and submit your responses accordingly to Simerg’s editor, Malik, at mmerchant@simerg.com.

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Simerg’s Interview with Rozina Ramji

“Be it briyani, masala fish, kuku paka (from main dishes), dal, moong curry, sonia (from basic recipes), or dhokra, fried masala cassava, chicken samosas (from snacks), you will now be able to make these from the step-by-step method given. Mom’s Caramel Pudding is delicious and worth attempting” — Excerpt from back cover, “Cooking with Mom”, by Rozina Ramji

Rozina Ramji's book “Cooking with Mom.” Published by Litfire, Books by Ismaili authors, simerg series

Simerg: What is behind the naming of the title of the book?

Rozina Ramji: To leave a legacy of my Mom’s cooking which the family has enjoyed for decades. Cooking has been a big part of our family culture and I have memories of the ladies (Grandmas, Aunts, and Mom) all cooking together, sharing techniques and conversing with each other. The cookbook was to cook with Mom and sharing time with her. I didn’t want to lose Mom’s recipes. The book is a great way to thank Mom and honour her and, thus, the title “Cooking with Mom.”

Simerg: Why would you want me or my family members to read the book, and what will we all learn from it?

Rozina: You’ll learn about the key recipes from African/Indian blend as well as common foods that are usually served in most homes that come from East Africa. With the step-by-step method to the recipe and the photos, anyone wishing to cook will easily create it.

[The editor recommends that readers read Rozina Ramji’s beautiful and inspiring introduction to “Cooking with Mom” – see image, below, and click on it for enlargement]

Rozina Ramji's introduction to "Cooking with Mom." Photograph: Rozina Ramji, Edmonton. Books by Ismaili authors by Simerg.
Rozina Ramji’s introduction to “Cooking with Mom.” Photograph: Rozina Ramji, Edmonton. Please click on image for enlargement

Simerg: What inspired you to write Cooking with Mom?

Rozina: I remember my son and daughter asking me to make chicken samosas and shrimp curry that my Mom makes. I realized that it didn’t turn out like Mom’s. It’s at that point I decided I wanted to cook with Mom and learn about the ingredients, the steps to each recipe and any tips and tricks she could share.

In this way and with the backing of my children and other younger members of my family, I decided to write Cooking with Mom. It is fully illustrated, and I think even novices and those who find cooking somewhat daunting will be inspired to start cooking with the recipes I have provided in the book. I also invite expert cooks who specialize in other forms of cooking — Canadian, North American as well as ethnic — to explore and to try some of recipes that I have provided.

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Rozina Ramji's book “Cooking with Mom.” Published by Litfire, Books by Ismaili authors, simerg series
Cover page of Rozina Ramji’s book “Cooking with Mom.” Published by Litfire, September 2018, 122 pp. Available as paperback and hardcover.

Praise for Cooking with Mom

“The Cooking with Mom cookbook is one of the most interesting in my home library! The recipes are easy to understand, and the pictures are very helpful; they depict not only the finished dishes but also key steps in the preparation process. Packed with 41 recipes, the book is divided into 7 categories covering the gamut of Indian cuisine: main dishes, curries, rice dishes, east Indian bread, snacks, sweet things and drinks. I love the chicken biryani and my husband is wild about this particular recipe. My husband is not the most proficient person in the kitchen, but he did a credible job with the kheer (rice pudding.) We both enjoy Indian food and can’t wait to try out more of the recipes. Whether you’re an accomplished meal maker or a just a novice starting out in Indian cuisine, you won’t go wrong with this book!” — Joan Sinclair

Cooking with Mom by Rozina Ramji, cookbook, African Indian and fusion, Simerg Ismaili authors series
A 2-page spread from Rozina Ramji’s “Cooking with Mum” illustrating how to make the famous East African kachori (potato balls). Photograph: Rozina Ramji, Edmonton.

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Simerg: How can I purchase the book and what are its available formats?

Rozina: First of all, Cooking with Mom can be ordered directly from the publisher Litfire. You can also acquire it from major on-line stores such as Amazon, Indigo and Barnes and Nobles, among many other booksellers. The book is available both in paperback and hardcover.

Simerg: How did you find a publisher for the book?

Rozina: I was making inquiries about publishing and happened to talk to someone from LitFire publishing. They were very encouraging and told me about the support they provide. I felt comfortable.

Simerg: Did you hire an editor, an illustrator or did you do all the work by yourself?

Rozina: While I was cooking with my Mom, I took photos of everything and wrote down every recipe. Then the family tried to create food while following the recipe and asked questions. In this way, I tried my best to perfect the steps. My sister Bilkis along with my husband Alnasir helped with the book’s editing.

Simerg: Which was your first book and how many have you written?

Rozina: Cooking with Mom is my first book. I would love to write a sequel with other delicious recipes not included in the first.

Simerg: How long did it take you to write Cooking with Mom from start to finish and to begin marketing it?

Rozina: It took a year. I had been wanting to write a cookbook with Mom for several years but this dream only materialized in 2018.

Simerg: Tell us something more about your book.

Rozina: The cookbook has mouthwatering recipes that are not difficult to make like biryani, masala fish, dal, vegetable curries and then snacks like chicken samosas, dhokras, kebabs, sweet thaplas etc. Some drinks that are popular like kadho, lassi, sherbets and masala chai are also included. This is a book everyone will be able to follow, and those who do not cook will say that they now love to cook.

Date posted: November 11, 2022.

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Get your own copy of Rozina Ramji’s Cooking with Mom. Order it from the publisher Litfire or other major on-line stores such as Amazon, Indigo and Barnes and Nobles. We welcome feedback from our readers. Please click LEAVE A COMMENT. Your letter may be edited for length and brevity and is subject to moderation.

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Rozina Ramji Cooking with Mon, books by Ismaili authors, special series Simerg
Rozina Ramji (left), and sister Bilkis Jiwa with their mom Gulshan Jiwa (centre).

Born and raised in Uganda, Rozina Ramji was pursuing her higher secondary education in the UK, when her parents, Pyarali and Gulshan Jiwa, were forced to flee Uganda following Idi Amin’s 1972 decree expelling South Asians from the country. Rozina’s parents settled in Edmonton and went on to open grocery stores that, among other items, sold ethnic groceries from around the world. Rozina joined her parents in Edmonton in 1973 and pursued a degree majoring in Education at the University of Alberta. She then commenced a long career in teaching with the Edmonton Public School Board, where she taught general subjects as well as math/science to students from SK to Grade 12. At the same time, she became engaged within her Ismaili Muslim community by volunteering in Ismaili institutions in numerous capacities, including giving Baitul Ilm (BUI) classes to Ismaili children and youth. Also, Rozina and her husband Alnasir were appointed to officiate as Kamadiani and Kamadia of the Edmonton Ismaili Headquarters Jamatkhana. She has two children; her son is a doctor while her daughter has completed her master’s program in Dispute Resolution. Indeed, it was at her children’s insistence that Rozina decided to write “Cooking with Mom” and she remains grateful to them for their inspiration.

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Calling all Ismaili Authors

We encourage Ismaili writers to introduce their books in a similar format as has been done in the post above. Please also see the series launch article and submit your responses to Malik at mmerchant@simerg.com. All submissions will be acknowledged. If a writer has published multiple books, each book will be highlighted in a separate article, and not combined with other books into one post. All writers should include a brief profile with a portrait photo.

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Links to the Ismaili Authors’ Series (in chronological sequence, oldest article first):

  1. “Justice Bertha Wilson Pushes the Boundaries of Humanity” by Shamas Nanji (series start, February 10, 2021)
  2. “Little One, You Are The Universe” by Zeni Shariff (February 25, 2021)
  3. “Memoirs of a Muhindi” by Mansoor Ladha (March 6, 2021, and see also 15, below, by the same author)
  4. “To Be One With God: Seven Journeys to the Meaning of Life” by Shafeen Ali (March 25, 2021)
  5. “Invisible Birthmarks” by Alnasir Rajan (April 13, 2021)
  6. “IN THE NAME OF JUSTICE – Portrait of a ‘Cowboy’ Judge” by Azmina Suleman (April 28, 2021)
  7. “RSVP Rice and Stew Very Plenty” by Nazlin Rahemtulla (May 28, 2021)
  8. “Coughdrops” by Nargis Fazal (June 12, 2021)
  9. “The Roots and the Trees” by Nizar Sultan (June 25, 2021)
  10. “Faith and Ethics: The Vision of the Ismaili Imamat” by M. Ali Lakhani (July 4, 2021)
  11. “Nairobi Days by Shelina_Shariff Zia (July 21, 2021)
  12. “Shine Brighter” by Shairoz Lakhani (December 8, 2021)
  13. “This is My Life” by Naznin Rahemtulla Hébert (February 26, 2022)
  14. “Humanizing Medicine – Making Health Tangible” by Dr. Azim Jiwani (March 9, 2022)
  15. “A Portrait in Pluralism: Aga Khan’s Shia Ismaili Muslims” by Mansoor Ladha (June 8, 2022, and see also 3, above, by the same author)
  16. “Malaria Memoirs: My Life Journey as a Public Health Doctor in Tanzania” by Dr Zul Premji (June 30, 2022)
  17. “Monkey Tales and Other Short Stories” by Mahmoud Hirji (September 10, 2022)
  18. “Bloom! A Story of Diversity and Understanding” by Shamim Murji (October 27, 2022)
  19. “Cooking with Mom” by Rozina Ramji (November 11, 2022)

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Before departing this website please take a moment to review Simerg’s Table of Contents for links to hundreds of thought provoking pieces on a vast array of subjects including faith and culture, history and philosophy, and arts and letters to name a few. Also visit Simerg’s sister websites Barakah, dedicated to His Highness the Aga Khan, and Simergphotos.

The editor may be reached via email at mmerchant@simerg.com.

Stunning Starry Night and Milky Way Photos Taken by Ron Richey at Jasper National Park, Canada

Introduced by MALIK MERCHANT

PLEASE CLICK: STARRY NIGHT AND THE MILKY WAY, JASPER NATIONAL PARK

Pyramid Mountain, October 18, 2022.

I fell in love with Pyramid Lake and the Pyramid Mountain behind it the moment I saw it on October 17, 2022. I kept going to it every day I was in Jasper, but nothing could be as breathtaking than being at the site on a dark clear night during Jasper’s annual Dark Sky Event. On October 18, I stood next to Ron Richey as he focused his lens into the sky and photographed the Milky Way and all the millions of stars above the Lake. I am pleased to share his photographs on Simergphotos. Do not miss this incredible awe-inspiring view of our universe by Ron, an avid photographer and a passionate lover of nature. And remember he took the photos in Jasper, the 2nd largest Dark Sky Preserve in the world. So, you can imagine!

Milky Way, Pyramid Lake, Ron Richey, Simergphotos.
Our Milky Way, stretching 1000,000 light years across and 13.6 billion years of age. Please click on photo for Ron Richey’s stunning photographs.

Date posted: November 1, 2022.
Last updated: November 6, 2022 (as a repost.)

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Asians queue outside the British High Commission in Kampala to verify their citizenship status following Idi Amin's decree of August 1972 giving them notice to leave the country within 90 days. Simerg.

Major Virtual Event Today, Sunday, November 6, 2022: “Uganda Expulsion at 50: A Time for Reflection”

Introduced by MALIK MERCHANT

[NOTE: The event is over. Visit this page later for link to YouTube posting of the discussion]

The Ismaili Tariqah and Religious Education Board for the United Kingdom (ITREB, UK) is hosting a virtual panel discussion today, Sunday, November 6, 2022, involving five leading members of the Ismaili Muslim Jamat (community) who have been involved in one way or another in the resettlement process since the expulsion of Asians from Uganda 50 years ago. The link for the panel discussion is Watch Zoom: Uganda Expulsion at 50. (Note: Passcode/password not required, as the Zoom link provided is more than sufficient to enter the event.)

The discussion will commence at 7:30 PM GMT (see other local times below). Readers of this website are urged to watch this unique and important session and inform their family members, friends and other contacts to join the session. Please mark it on your calendar.

The session is part of ITREB UK’s Heritage Series and is entitled “The Ugandan Asian Expulsion at 50 — Reflections on the Emergence of a new Ismaili Diaspora in North America and Europe.” The program is an initiative of BUA50 (British Ugandan Asians at 50) which is composed of a Steering Committe with members from the UK and other countries around the world. BUA50 commemorative events have also taken place in South Africa and Australia.

The panelists for this event will include Amin Mawji OBE (Order of the British Empire), who is currently the Diplomatic Representative of the Aga Khan Development Network (AKDN) in Uganda. He will provide the opening remarks. Others in the panel are lawyer and economist as well as author of a recent book, Memories of a Ugandan Refugee: Encounters of Hope from Kampala to Vancouver, Jalal Jaffer, one of the early expellees who has held senior leadership positions in Ismaili institutions, and Arafat Jamal, Diplomat and Senior Representative for the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) in South Sudan.

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In August 1972, President Idi Amin decreed that all resident Asians had to leave Uganda within 90 days. Departing Asian were allowed to take only £ 50.00 per family and a maximum of 220 kgs (485 lbs) of personal effects. The UK, Canada, other countries and the United Nations scrambled to assist thousands who were rendered stateless. Photograph: Journey into Hope, The Ismaili Canada, 1994.
In August 1972, President Idi Amin decreed that all resident Asians had to leave Uganda within 90 days. Thousands were rendered stateless by this decree and scrambled to the UK, Canada and other countries with the assistance of the United Nations. Photograph: Journey into Hope, A Chronicle of the Ugandan Asian Migration, Published by The Ismaili, Canada, 1994.

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Asians queue outside the British High Commission in Kampala to verify their citizenship status following Idi Amin's decree of August 1972 giving them notice to leave the country within 90 days. Simerg.
In August 1972, President Idi Amin decreed that all resident Asians had to leave Uganda within 90 days. Departing Asian were allowed to take only £ 50.00 per family and a maximum of 220 kgs (485 lbs.) of personal effects. The UK, Canada, other countries and the United Nations scrambled to assist thousands who were rendered stateless. In this photo, Asians queue outside the British High Commission in Kampala to verify their citizenship status, while a newspaper vendor walks around selling copies of the latest issue of the English newspaper Uganda Argus. Photograph: © The Mohamed Amin Foundation.

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Departing Asians on the tarmac of Entebbe airport as the first flights began to leave Kampala following Idi Amin's decree in August 1972 which gave them 90 days to leave the country. Departing Asian were allowed to take only £ 50.00 per family and a maximum of 220 kgs (485 lbs) of personal effects.
Departing Asians on the tarmac of Entebbe airport as the first flights began to leave Kampala following Idi Amin’s decree in August 1972 which gave them 90 days to leave the country. Stateless Asian were allowed to take only £ 50.00 per family and a maximum of 220 kgs (485 lbs.) of personal effects. Photograph: © The Mohamed Amin Foundation.

The panelist will be in conversation with Dr. Mohamed Keshavjee, a lawyer, mediator and author of several highly acclaimed books, among them “Into That Heaven of Freedom” and “Islam, Sharia and Alternative Dispute Resolution: Mechanisms for Legal Redress in the Muslim Community.” Dr. Keshavjee has a background in the International Protection of Human Rights. He recently participated in a BUA50 event held in South Africa.

The closing remarks will be offered by Mahmood Ahmed of the Aga Khan Foundation (AKF, UK), who was the founding Diplomatic Representative of the AKDN, Uganda.

The Ugandan expulsion of 1972 lay at the fault-line of disagreement between the Uganda, British and Indian governments who refused to take responsibility for the fate of the Asian minorities of East Africa at the end of the decolonisation process. In the words of Yash Tandon, a Ugandan policymaker, political activist, professor, author and public intellectual, the Asian minorities became “stepchildren of the colonial empire.”

An event not to be missed, this unique session is open to everyone and requires no prior registration.

Again, the link to the session is Watch Zoom: Uganda Expulsion at 50 ((Note: Passcode/password not required, as the link provided is more than sufficient to enter the event.) The session is on Sunday, November 6, 2022, and the program can be viewed around the world at the following local times:

. 7:30 PM GMT (UK, Portugal)

. 8:30 PM (France, Spain, Germany and many other European countries)

. 2:30 PM (New York, Toronto etc.)

. 11:30 AM (Vancouver, Los Angeles etc.)

. 12:30 PM (Edmonton, Denver etc.)

. 1:30 PM (Chicago, Houston etc.)

. 10:30 PM (Kenya, Uganda, Tanzania, South Africa)

Readers in other worldwide cities in the Middle East, Central and South Asia, the Far East well as Australia and New Zealand, please calibrate your calendar time according to the GMT time of 7:30 PM.

NOTE: When you open the Zoom link and if the ITREB UK event hasn’t begun, the start time of the event that is displayed on your screen is your local time, wherever you may be.

Do not miss this important and unique discussion.

Date posted: November 3, 2022.
Last updated: November 6, 2022.

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Before departing this website please take a moment to review Simerg’s Table of Contents for links to hundreds of thought-provoking pieces on a vast array of subjects including faith and culture, history and philosophy, and arts and letters to name a few. Also visit Simerg’s sister websites Barakah, dedicated to His Highness the Aga Khan, and Simergphotos. The editor may be reached via email at mmerchant@simerg.com.

Coverage of the Aga Khan Music Awards Held in Muscat, Oman, on October 29-30, 2022

The Aga Khan Music Awards was established in 2018 under the patronage of Mawlana Hazar Imam, His Highness the Aga Khan, 49th Hereditary Imam of the Shia Imami Ismaili Muslims. At the inaugural award ceremony that was held from March 29-31, 2019, in Lisbon, Portugal, His Highness made the following observation:

Music can be a strong cultural anchor, deepening a sense of community, identity and heritage, while simultaneously reaching out in powerful ways to people of different backgrounds. I know that in some parts of the world the words “Muslim” and “music” are not often linked together in the public mind. But they should be. The cultural heritage of Islam has long embraced musical language as an elemental expression of human spirituality — His Highness the Aga Khan

The second award ceremony has just concluded in Muscat, Oman, with presentations made to 15 Laureates from diverse countries from around the world (see photograph, below). Our sister website, Barakah, has a comprehensive report of the two-day event held from October 29 to 30, 2022. Please click HERE or on the image below for reports and photographs.

Prince Amyn Aga Khan, younger brother of His Highness the Aga Khan, and His Highness Sayyid Bilarab, presided over the presentation of the 2022 Aga Khan Music Awards in Muscat, Oman, on October 30, 2022. In the background, the six triangles that form the Aga Khan Music Awards logo are each a stylization of a word rendered in Kufic script, designed in collaboration with master calligrapher Samir Sayegh. Starting bottom right and going clockwise, Samaa’ (Listening), Zaman (Time), Sharq (East/Orient), Wahi (Inspiration), Taa’leem (Teaching) and Nafas (Breath/Soul). Photograph: Akbar Hakim/AKDN. Please click on image for a comprehensive report on the Aga Khan Music Awards presentation ceremony.

Date posted: October 31, 2022.

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Before departing this website please take a moment to review Simerg’s Table of Contents for links to hundreds of thought-provoking pieces on a vast array of subjects including faith and culture, history and philosophy, and arts and letters to name a few. Also visit Simerg’s sister websites Barakah, dedicated to His Highness the Aga Khan, and Simergphotos. The editor may be reached via email at mmerchant@simerg.com.

Simerg’s Series on Books by Ismaili Authors: “Bloom! A Story of Diversity and Understanding,” by Shamim Murji of Brampton Aims to Teach Ismaili Muslim Children About Their Identity Through Storytelling

By MALIK MERCHANT

Simerg’s series entitled “Books by Ismaili Authors” continues with Shamim Murji’s book “Bloom: A Story of Diversity and Understanding.” We follow the same Q/A format as our earlier presentations of books written by Mahmoud Hirji (Toronto), Zul Premji (Calgary), Azim Jiwani (Vancouver), Naznin Rahemtulla Hébert (Montreal), Shairoz Lakhani (London, UK), Shelina Shariff Zia (New York), Ali Lakhani (Vancouver), Nizar Sultan (Toronto), Nargis Fazal (Vancouver), Nazlin Rahemtulla (Vancouver), Azmina Suleman (Calgary), Alnasir Rajan (Mississauga), Shafeen Ali (USA), Mansoor Ladha (Calgary), Zeni Shariff (Toronto) and Shamas Nanji (Edmonton). We encourage Ismaili authors from around the world to participate in this series, regardless of when their books were published. See details of the series HERE and submit your responses accordingly to Simerg’s editor, Malik, at mmerchant@simerg.com.

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Simerg’s Interview with Shamim Murji

Ismaili author Shamim Murji, Bloom!
Shamim Murji

Simerg: What is behind the naming of the title of the book?

Shamim Murji: The word “Bloom!” in the title provokes the idea of growth and fits nicely with self-discovery and learning. In this story a young girl learns about her identity as a Shia Ismaili Muslim.

Simerg: Why would you want me or my family members to read the book, and what will we all learn from it?

Shamim: I think this picture book will be appreciated by both Ismaili Muslim children specifically but also children of diverse faiths and cultures. We live in a diverse and pluralist world where teaching young children to appreciate and celebrate diversity is incumbent upon all parents and schools. Often, a fun and age-appropriate way to introduce difficult concepts is by observing nature. In this beautifully illustrated book with a clear and thought-provoking message for young readers, young girls learn that we are different, but we also have plenty in common and it’s the differences that make this world a special place. It is a heartwarming tale of identity, friendship and self-acceptance.

Simerg: What inspired you to write Bloom! A Story of Diversity and Understanding?

Shamim: I have often been disappointed not finding books relevant to or about Ismaili children either in the libraries or in my educational resources. As a secular teacher with the Peel Board of Education for 30 years, one of my favourite strategies to engage children into reading was through Readalouds. I think my picture book is an excellent Read Aloud story about inclusion and appreciation of diversity which are fundamental values for a peaceful environment in the classrooms but also in our shrinking world. This book also gave me an opportunity to explain my own faith not only to other Muslims but also non-Muslims.

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Grade 5 Teacher Praises Shamim Murji’s Story Book

Thank you so much for your amazing book. I love how you used nature to convey the message of diversity. My class thoroughly enjoyed your wonderful, enlightening book. Some comments from my class include, “I love how she used the rainbows and flowers,” another student said, “I didn’t know there were different types of Muslims.” My students also enjoyed the illustrations/pictures by your illustrator. My students were all extremely engaged when I was reading the book — Tom Vozinidis, grade 5 teacher.

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Bloom a story of diversity and understanding, books by Ismaili authors, Simerg
Shamim Murji’s “Bloom! A Story of Diversity and Understanding.” Illustrations by i Cenizal. Published by Tellwell Publishing, Victoria, British Columbia, August 2022, 26pp. Softcover.

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Ismaili Mother Praises Shamim Murji’s Story Book

I think for us it helped give the kids a language that is age appropriate, and a concrete example that they can use with friends moving forward. Our children hear the words diversity and pluralism all the time but often find these concepts are too complex for a child to be able to successfully articulate and fully understand — your book helps so much with that. All in all, we really love the book and again I am very impressed by how you found a gentle, inclusive and respectful way to tackle what I think is a very big problem that certainly affects the way Ismaili children self-identify. — Rishma Somji, a young Ismaili mother.

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Simerg: How can I purchase the book and what are its available formats?

Shamim: The paperback book is available from numerous online booksellers including Amazon, Indigo, Barnes and Nobles and Book Depository. I am pleased to say that the book can also be purchased from the gift shop at the Aga Khan Museum in Toronto.

Simerg: How did you find a publisher for the book?

Shamim: I found Tellwell Publishing online.

Simerg: Did you hire an editor, an illustrator or did you do all the work by yourself?

Shamim: Tellwell Publishing provided me access to all their editors and illustrators. They are a comprehensive publishing company and provide continuous support to the writer through the publishing journey.

Simerg: Which was your first book and how many have you written?

Shamim: This is my first published book, and it is aimed at children. As a teacher, I wrote numerous articles for school newsletters. One piece that I wrote recently for the AKU/IED may be of interest to many of your readers and I invite them to click on Embracing Pluralism: Curriculum paving the way for an inclusive tomorrow.

Simerg: How long did it take you to write “Bloom! A Story of Diversity and Understanding” from start to finish and to begin marketing it?

Shamim: The idea of the book had been brewing in my head for a few years. However, when I retired from my full-time teaching, I had more time to work on it, polish it and get it ready for the publisher. It was published in August 2022.

Date posted: October 27, 2022.

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We welcome feedback from our readers. Please click Leave a comment. Your letter may be edited for length and brevity and is subject to moderation.

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Ismaili author Shamim Murji, Bloom!
Shamim Murji

Shamim Murji found her experiences as a classroom teacher for 25 years (KG — Grade 8) most enjoyable as a teacher, mentor and learner. She also had opportunities to travel as a volunteer teacher and mentor to Liberia, Ghana and Uganda as a participant and team leader for Project Overseas, which is a Canadian Teachers’ Federation and Elementary Teachers’ Federation of Ontario joint venture to provide free quality professional development to teachers in the developing countries. From 2016–2017 she was seconded by the Ontario Ministry of Education to the Aga Khan Academy in Maputo, Mozambique. Her work in the summer of 2018 with street kids in Jeevapur, a small village in Gujarat, India, also confirmed to her the importance of English literacy as a life skill. Shamim lives with her husband in Brampton, Ontario, Canada.

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Calling all Ismaili Authors

We encourage Ismaili writers to introduce their books in a similar format as has been done in the post above. Please also see the series launch article and submit your responses to Malik at mmerchant@simerg.com. All submissions will be acknowledged. If a writer has published multiple books, each book will be highlighted in a separate article, and not combined with other books into one post. All writers should include a brief profile with a portrait photo.

We welcome feedback from our readers. Please click Leave a comment. Your letter may be edited for length and brevity, and is subject to moderation.

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Links to the Ismaili Authors’ Series (in chronological sequence, oldest article first):

  1. “Justice Bertha Wilson Pushes the Boundaries of Humanity” by Shamas Nanji (series start, February 10, 2021)
  2. “Little One, You Are The Universe” by Zeni Shariff (February 25, 2021)
  3. “Memoirs of a Muhindi” by Mansoor Ladha (March 6, 2021, and see also 15, below, by the same author)
  4. “To Be One With God: Seven Journeys to the Meaning of Life” by Shafeen Ali (March 25, 2021)
  5. “Invisible Birthmarks” by Alnasir Rajan (April 13, 2021)
  6. “IN THE NAME OF JUSTICE – Portrait of a ‘Cowboy’ Judge” by Azmina Suleman (April 28, 2021)
  7. “RSVP Rice and Stew Very Plenty” by Nazlin Rahemtulla (May 28, 2021)
  8. “Coughdrops” by Nargis Fazal (June 12, 2021)
  9. “The Roots and the Trees” by Nizar Sultan (June 25, 2021)
  10. “Faith and Ethics: The Vision of the Ismaili Imamat” by M. Ali Lakhani (July 4, 2021)
  11. “Nairobi Days by Shelina_Shariff Zia (July 21, 2021)
  12. “Shine Brighter” by Shairoz Lakhani (December 8, 2021)
  13. “This is My Life” by Naznin Rahemtulla Hébert (February 26, 2022)
  14. “Humanizing Medicine – Making Health Tangible” by Dr. Azim Jiwani (March 9, 2022)
  15. “A Portrait in Pluralism: Aga Khan’s Shia Ismaili Muslims” by Mansoor Ladha (June 8, 2022, and see also 3, above, by the same author)
  16. “Malaria Memoirs: My Life Journey as a Public Health Doctor in Tanzania” by Dr Zul Premji (June 30, 2022)
  17. “Monkey Tales and Other Short Stories” by Mahmoud Hirji (September 10, 2022)
  18. “Bloom! A Story of Diversity and Understanding” by Shamim Murji (October 27, 2022)

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Before departing this website please take a moment to review Simerg’s Table of Contents for links to hundreds of thought provoking pieces on a vast array of subjects including faith and culture, history and philosophy, and arts and letters to name a few. Also visit Simerg’s sister websites Barakah, dedicated to His Highness the Aga Khan, and Simergphotos.

The editor may be reached via email at mmerchant@simerg.com.

Photos and Story of Internment at Banff and Jasper National Parks During World War I, and Jehangir Merchant’s 1961 Internment in Mozambique

PLEASE CLICK: Story of Internment

Malik Merchant’s recent visit to Jasper National Park to attend the Dark Sky event apparently taught him an important new lesson in Canadian History — the internment of Ukrainians and others from European countries who were deemed to be “enemy aliens” by the Canadian Government. While reflecting on this sad chapter, Malik’s thoughts also turned to the internment of his own father, Jehangir Merchant, in Mozambique in 1961 for almost 6 months for holding an Indian passport. Read and share his post which includes excerpts from a loving letter that Jehangir wrote to his beloved wife, Malek, as a new member was added to the Merchant family just as the internment of Indian citizens got underway. Please click HERE or on the image below for the article and photos in Simergphotos.

Please click on photo for article

Date posted: October 25, 2022.

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REVIEW SIMERG’S TABLE OF CONTENTS AND VISIT ITS SISTER WEBSITES

Before departing this website please take a moment to visit Simerg’s Table of Contents for links to almost 2000 pieces published since the website was created in 2009. Also visit Simerg’s two sister websites Barakah, dedicated to His Highness the Aga Khan, and Simergphotos. Barakah’s editor may be reached at mmerchant@simerg.com. Malik may be followed @Facebook and @Twitter.

Logos of the Aga Khan Award for Architecture and the Aga Khan Musin Awards

Sultanate of Oman to Host the 2022 Aga Khan Music Awards and Aga Khan Award for Architecture Between October 29-31

The material in this post has been compiled from the official websites of the Ministry of Information of the Sultanate of Oman — see link to October 23 story “HH Sayyid Theyazin to Patronize over Aga Khan Award Distribution Ceremony on 31 October” — and the Aga Khan Development Network (AKDN). Please visit the Music Awards and Architecture Awards pages at AKDN.

Map of Oman
Map of the Sultanate of Oman, shaded white (2016), surrounded by Saudi Arabia, UAE and Yemen. The Gulf of Oman separates the Sultanate from the Islamic Republic of Iran. Credit: Perry-Castañeda Library, Map Collection, University of Texas.

The 2022 Aga Khan Award for Architecture and Aga Khan Music Awards

His Highness Sayyid Theyazin bin Haitham Al Said, Minister of Culture, Sports and Youth, will preside over the distribution of Aga Khan Award for Architecture (AKAA) at the Royal Opera House Muscat (ROHM) on October 31, 2022. The AKAA on June 2, 2022, announced 20 shortlisted projects for the 15th edition of the Award cycle. The projects will compete for a share of the US$ 1 million prize, one of the largest in architecture. The 20 shortlisted projects were selected by an independent Master Jury from a pool of 463 projects nominated for the 15th Award Cycle (2020-2022).

The event marks the 45th anniversary of the award, which was established by Mawlana Hazar Imam, His Highness the Aga Khan, in 1977. The first AKAA ceremony was held in 1980 at the Shalimar Gardens in Lahore, Pakistan.

The ceremonies, scheduled at the ROHM, will be held in the presence of ministers, undersecretaries, a selection of Omani architects and musicians and about 250 international guests — in addition to members of the Awards Steering Committee, the jury, candidates and winners of the Architecture and Music Awards.

Aga Khan Gardens Edmonton Talar building showcasing Aga Khan Award for Architecture entries
Nurin Merchant poses in front of the Talar Building during her visit in August 2022 to the Aga Khan Gardens in Edmonton. Twenty shortlisted projects for the 2022 Aga Khan Award for Architecture were beautifully showcased on Talar’s large pillars. Photograph: Malik Merchant/Simerg.

Coinciding with the presentation of the AKAA will be the award ceremony for the 2nd edition of the Aga Khan Music Awards. The Aga Khan Awards for Music was established in 2018 by Mawlana Hazar Imam and is administered by a Steering Committee co-chaired by Mawlana Hazar Imam and his younger brother Amyn Aga Khan.

This is the first time that two award ceremonies are being held together at one location. The distribution of the music awards will be attended in a number of related events by His Highness Sayyid Bilarab bin Haitham Al Said and His Highness Sayyid Kamil bin Fahd Al Said.

Aga Khn Music Awards
Laureates of the 2022 Aga Khan Music Awards. Photograph: AKDN.

Sayyid Said bin Sultan Al Busaidi, Undersecretary of the Ministry of Culture, Sports and Youth for Culture gave the following statement: “The distribution of the Aga Khan Awards for Architecture and Music 2022 in the Sultanate of Oman offers a variety of opportunities to academic researchers, musicians and architects. It will enable them to learn about new and outstanding areas highlighted by the awards. It will allow them to be in touch with winners from different countries of the world and the protocols associated with the awards. It will also expand the Omani cultural scene integration with various countries of the world and consolidate social awareness about participation in these international awards. The hosting of the events provides a true manifestation of Oman’s vision to become a destination for art, literature and culture.”

Busaidi further added that the follow-up of the event via media platforms will highlight Oman’s economic and scholarly domains, thus achieving one of the most important pillars of the country’s cultural strategy, which targets cultural openness to the world and the global propagation of the Omani cultural identity.

Date posted: October 24, 2022.
Last updated: October 25, 2022 (external links added, see below)

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Related articles:

For explanations of the two logos featured at top of this post, please visit:

1. Barakah: Logo of the Aga Khan Music Awards, and
2. Simerg: Logo of the Aga Khan Award for Architecture

For news reports and other related articles on the Aga Khan Awards, please visit:

1. The Ismaili: In Conversation with Farrokh Derakhshani, Director of the Aga Khan Award for Architecture;
2. Times of Oman: For first time, AKAA and Aga Khan Music Awards to be celebrated in one country; and
3. Muscat Daily: Muscat to host AKAA

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FEEDBACK

Simerg welcomes your feedback. Your email will not be shown, and you may choose to remain anonymous. Please click Leave a comment. Your letter may be edited for length and brevity and is subject to moderation.

REVIEW SIMERG’S TABLE OF CONTENTS AND VISIT ITS SISTER WEBSITES

Before departing this website please take a moment to visit Simerg’s Table of Contents for links to almost 2000 pieces published since the website was created in 2009. Also visit Simerg’s two sister websites Barakah, dedicated to His Highness the Aga Khan, and Simergphotos. Barakah’s editor may be reached at mmerchant@simerg.com. Malik may be followed @Facebook and @Twitter.

Ismaili artist Nabat Pirani Simerg

Artistic Expressions: A Selection of Beautiful Paintings by Nabat Pirani of Vancouver

By NABAT PIRANI

Ismaili artist Nabat, paintings for artistic expressions in Simerg
Ismaili artist Nabat Pirani.

Born in Uganda, the Pearl of Africa, I was always surrounded by luscious greenery, red earth and bright blue skies. Immigrating to Canada, the landscapes were also breathtaking with the ocean, snow-capped mountains and green pastures.

It was not until my retirement years that I began to paint, with inspiration from my memories of Africa and my beautiful home in Canada. I enjoy painting scenery, landscapes and abstract art using watercolours, acrylic and oil mediums. I live in Vancouver, Canada, with my husband Amin (Aguli) and have 3 grown kids and 5 grandchildren.

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Paintings by Nabat Pirani

Please click on images for enlargements

Mamma by Ismaili artist Nabat Pirani Simerg
Mamma. Acrylic, 15″ x 11″, October 2016. Painting by Nabat Pirani.

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Ismaili artist Nabat Pirani Simerg
Fall Lover. Acrylic, 18″ x 24″, November 2014. Painting by Nabat Pirani.

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Ismaili artist Nabat Pirani Simerg
Hear the Silence. Acrylic, 18″ x 24″, 2019. Painting by Nabat Pirani.

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Ismaili artist Nabat Pirani Simerg
Way Out. Acrylic, 16″ x 24″. November 2014. Painting by Nabat Pirani.

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Sufi by Ismaili artist Nabat Pirani Simerg
Sufi Dancer. Acrylic, 13″ x 10″, 2021. Painting by Nabat Pirani.

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Best season by Ismaili artist Nabat Pirani Simerg
Best Season. Watercolour, 13″ x 10″. Painting by Nabat Pirani.

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Safari sunset by Ismaili artist Nabat Pirani Simerg
Safari Sunset, Watercolour, 18″ x 14″, 2016. Painting by Nabat Pirani.

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Lighthouse by Ismaili artist Nabat Pirani Simerg
Lighthouse. Watercolour, 15″ x 11″, 2019. Painting by Nabat Pirani.

Date posted: October 23, 2022.

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We welcome feedback/letters from our readers. Please use the LEAVE A REPLY box which appears at the bottom of this page or click Leave a comment. Your feedback may be edited for length and brevity, and is subject to moderation. We are unable to acknowledge unpublished letters.

The editor invites Ismaili artists to submit a selection of their paintings and other works of art for publication in Simerg. Please submit images of no more than 8 objects in Jpeg (1200 x 900) along with your profile to the editor Malik, at mmerchant@simerg.com.

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Compendium of Ismaili Artists

By MALIK MERCHANT
Publiser/Editor, Simerg

Ismaili artist compendium, Simerg, Editor Malik Merchant
Please click on image to download compendium

Some 8 years ago, we produced a beautiful PDF publication entitled “A Compendium of Ismaili Artists from Around the World” that can be downloaded HERE. It contained a short profile and one work of art for each of the 33 different Ismaili artists from around the world who wanted to be featured in the compendium. As much as we wanted to publish an expanded edition of the compendium featuring many more Ismaili artists, we are sorry to note that the response was disappointing despite a major announcement on this platform as well as pertinent social media pages. We are keen to publish an expanded edition of the compendium provided we can, at the least, double up on the original number of 33 artists that were featured in the first edition. There are hundreds of Ismaili artists around the world, judging from their participation during the Golden and Diamond Jubilee celebrations of Mawlana Hazar Imam held in 2007-08 and 2017-18 respectively. We therefore urge Ismaili artists to review the entries in the first edition, and send their details for the compendium accordingly to Malik Merchant at mmerchant@simerg.com. Please do not ask us to prepare your profiles by submitting your elaborate CV or resume or asking us to visit your website to prepare the profile. We need the information from you, based on the format in the compendium; each artist will be allotted one page in the compendium that will include a brief profile and one image. Please read the compendium!