A video highlighting issues students have had with the University of Michigan’s Arabic language classes kicked off Friday’s annual Arab Xpression show, which celebrates Arabic culture through dances, skits and songs.
In explaining the event to the audience in the Rogel Ballroom, Arab Student Association hosts and LSA seniors Lana Abdole and Devin Jones emphasized the uniqueness of Arab Xpression — as the only Arab culture show of its kind at the University — and the importance of combating negative stereotypes in light of recent events on campus.
In an interview, Abdole echoed these sentiments.
“We wanted the opportunity to use the culture show to show you other side of things as opposed to the stereotypes in the public,” she said. “Arabesque, the dance group that performs, is the only traditional Arab dance group on campus. Specifically, this year we really wanted the show to provide a platform for people of Arab heritage to reclaim what it means to be Arab.”
In the video that began the night, students said they believe the Arabic classes politicize the language instead of teaching basic words. Students mentioned jokingly that schools in Arab countries probably would be taught about the United States by stereotypes of Americans through watching media like “It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia” and “Jersey Shore.”
Student performances included traditional dances such as an all-male performance of Dahke, a style of dance and music that involves foot-stomping and sticks originating in countries like Palestine. The dance was originally created to pass time when doing chores. Another performance included an original rap piece, “Hello” by Adele with an Arabic style twist, poetry discussing the Arab identity and skits that parodied “Who Wants to Become a Millionaire?”
LSA freshmen Zoha Qureshi and Hafsa Thias said they enjoyed seeing what they called the rare and positive display of Arab culture.
“I really enjoyed it. It’s really fun — I loved all of the dances and skits,” Qureshi said. “It’s really empowering. I am really awed by the rich culture.”
Thias added that the show was a break from the negativity in campus.
“(The rich culture) is something I haven’t seen,” he said. “There’s been a lot of negative rhetoric around campus right now. Being able to see the culture is pretty cool and empowering.”
The event also celebrated Arab heritage with an educational video about Arabs across the world, highlighting scientific discoveries and notable figures. The video ended with the words “Arabs Changed The World” on the screen.
LSA junior Tina Alkhersan said the show allowed her to enjoy her culture in a way not typically portrayed in media.
“I’m Arab, I’m from Iraq, and so it’s nice to see other Arabs come together and gather together and celebrate the culture,” Al-Khersan said. “So often, it’s not celebrated in the media.”
Xpression also included a fashion show, in which a female and male student displayed the traditional clothing of Arab countries, such as Syria, the United Arab Emirates and Bahrain.
LSA senior Naoshin Khan said she enjoyed the unifying factor of the show.
“It’s nice to see everyone as a collective community rather than being dispersed,” she said. “It’s nice to see everyone together.”