Once upon a time, storm winds cast a ship of diverse nations on the shore of an island inhabited by animals living in peace and harmony. The men hunted the animals convinced they held dominion over them. The animals took their grievance to the wise King of the Jinn who must now preside over The Case of Animals versus Man.
Drawing from theatre traditions east & west including Commedia dell arte, vaudeville, Khayal (the art of shadow puppetry evolved at Muslim court entertainments), and featuring world music, Island of Animals promises to be an entertaining performance of cross-cultural dimensions. The writing emulates the famous Sanskrit tales of Bidpai, Kalila wa Dimna and anticipates Attar’s Conference of the Birds by at least one hundred years; the Ikhwan al-Safa’s Island of Animals is an enlightening discovery of classical Muslim literature.
A group of learned men writing among Ismaili Muslim philosophers of the tenth century formed a society (Brethren of Purity) and composed the Rasa’il, an encyclopaedia of mathematics, physics, geology, ecology, astronomy, metaphysics... in short, a Microsoft “Encarta” of its time.
Hafiz Karmali served an apprenticeship at the American Repertory Theatre at Harvard University where he had the good fortune of assisting internationally renowned directors, Andrei Serban & Robert Wilson.
Mr. Karmali’s directing credits include Buchner’s Woyzeck, Leonce & Lena; Garcia Lorca’s The Shoemaker’s Prodigious Wife (Festival Avignon-Off, France); Attar’s Conference of the Birds (Ismaili Centre, London); Carlo Gozzi’s Love of Three Oranges & Raven (Montreal); Ikhwan al-Safa’s Island of Animals (Ismaili Centre, London); Jamatkhanas: A Journey I & II (video documentaries on Islamic Architecture); Caravane de la Paix (UNESCO, Paris).
Mr. Karmali has a special interest in cross-cultural performances with a view to showcasing indigenous performing arts of the Islamic world. To this end, he has directed Azaan – a court entertainment in collaboration with performers from Ismaili communities in London and Tajikistan (Guest of Honour: His Highness the Aga Khan); Rumi x 7 – Tales from the Mathnavi sponsored by the EEC with an acting company in Uzbekistan; Water for Life, AKF London, in collaboration with a dance company from Gujarat (Guest of Honour: Princess Zahra Aga Khan); and with folk artists of Karimabad, Hunza, Legend of the Baltit Fort – a dance-theatre programme sponsored by the Aga Khan Trust for Culture (AKTC), hosted by His Highness and Prince Amyn.
Mr. Karmali is intrigued by the interface between culture and social development as apparent in past assignments as a consultant for the UNDP (Samarkand) and AKTC (the Silk Route Project). Hafiz served as a Relief Officer for Focus Humanitarian Assistance (affiliated with the AKDN) as a member of the pioneering team that implemented Project Afghanistan in Kabul, Pul-i-Khumri & Badakhshan (October 1996 – June 1997 during the Taliban regime). Hafiz also served as a member of the organising team for His Highness the Aga Khan’s visits to Tajikistan (May 1995) & Afghanistan (Sept. 1998). A recipient of an AKF International Scholarship, Hafiz spent one year conducting research in Iran and is currently based in Paris where at Ecole Pratique des Hautes Etudes (Sorbonne) he is finalising his doctorate thesis on classical Ismaili philosophy.
Ballet Afsaneh and the Afsaneh Art & Culture Society
From the historic crossroads of Eurasia to the intersecting diversity of a new America, Ballet Afsaneh presents an eloquent testament to the unique Central Asian expressive arts. A program of the Afsaneh Art & Culture Society, Ballet Afsaneh performs both traditional repertory and ground breaking contemporary works that combine dance, music and poetry of Central Asia. Founded in 1986 by Choreographer-Director Sharlyn Sawyer, the nonprofit professional ensemble performs at major theaters, cultural festivals, museums and universities throughout the U.S. They have received numerous awards and are supported in part by the California Arts Council, the James Irvine Foundation, Community Foundation Silicon Valley, the Christensen Fund and San Francisco Grants for the Arts. For over twenty years Ballet Afsaneh and the Afsaneh Art & Culture Society have presented performances that enhance the visibility of the Central Asian community and provide exemplary family oriented education programs in traditional music, dance, language and visual arts.