[image-1] Last week Spoleto Festival USA announced a new, free discussion series under the umbrella of Spoleto ETC (Engaging The Community), the fest’s education and community outreach program. The ETC discussion series, Exploring Omar, expands on the historical context and cultural significance of Spoleto’s original opera, Omar.

Written by Rhiannon Giddens, Omar is based on the life of former enslaved African, Omar Ibn Said. The opera premieres at Spoleto, running throughout this year’s festival.

The discussions kick off next Thurs. Feb. 20 at 6 p.m. at Randolph Hall with: Cultural Ties Between Futa Toro (Senegal) and the Lowcountry. You’ll hear from the Penn Center’s Victoria Smalls, Georgia State University professor Elizabeth West, and College of Charleston professor John Cropper. The panelists will discuss the faith and cultural traditions of both Futa Toro (Omar Ibn Said’s birthplace) and the Lowcountry. Dr. Muhammad Fraser-Rahim, a Citadel professor, moderates.
On Thurs. March 12 head to the Main Library at 6 p.m. for: Islam and Enslaved Africans in Early Charleston. Brenda Tindal of the International African American Museum moderates a discussion between Charleston County Public Library’s historian Nic Butler and The New Schools’ professor Hussein Rashid. This year the city celebrates 350 years, which makes it an apt time to discuss all of the city’s history, including the influences of enslaved Africans on the introduction of Islam to the Lowcountry.
The final discussion, Omar Ibn Said, the Man, takes place on Thurs. April 23 at 6 p.m. at the Avery Research Center. Dr. Muhammad Fraser-Rahim once again moderates; this panel features speakers Professor Ala Alryyes, of Queens College, and Dr. Sylviane Diouf, a visiting scholar at Brown University’s Center for the Study of Slavery and Justice. The three will discuss who Omar Ibn Said was, and why his autobiography is so important. This discussion is followed by a reception.
Learn more about Spoleto (and buy tickets to Omar) online at spoletousa.org

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