America to Zanzibar at Muhammad Ali Center
America to Zanzibar at Muhammad Ali Center offers an interesting look into Islam.
You may know that Islam is the second largest religion in the world, but did you know that nearly two-thirds of Muslims actually live in the Asia-pacific region and not the Middle East? In fact, there is diversity in Muslim cultures all over the world – cultures that include different food, art, music, behaviors, beliefs, languages, rituals and more.
Since less than 1% of Kentuckians practice the Muslim faith as of 2010 (source), it can be difficult to personally experience the variety of Islamic societies here at home. Enter in the Muhammad Ali Center and the travelling exhibit from the Children’s Museum of Manhattan – America to Zanzibar.
With an even number of adults to children, we made our way to the Muhammad Ali Center on a Sunday afternoon after the exhibit opening to give our readers an inside look. After purchasing admission we made our way straight to the fifth floor for the Muhammad Ali introductory video If You Can Dream. After the film we followed our children’s interests until we came upon the America to Zanzibar exhibit on the fourth floor in the Ina B. Bond Gallery.
Not feeling confident that we knew where to start, we let our sense of smell take the lead and started at the Indonesian Fruit Stand. Everyone in the group gathered for quite a long time smelling the diverse fruits of Indonesia before breaking up to explore the exhibit individually. Through the exhibit we pretended to buy and sell spices, travel ancient trade routes by camel, decorate a Pakistani truck, compose music and see one example of a Muslim family living room.
In less than 3,000 square feet the America to Zanzibar exhibit attempts to represent the 1.7 billion Muslims that live across the world. Weaving in and out of the activities, you can get a sense that there are common threads connecting the different cultures, but different interpretations of Muslim faith and ideas.
Our children spent most of their time playing a “Guess What” game in a Parisian style courtyard or chaharbagh. A fitting spot in the exhibit to relax, the courtyard caught the attention of my son who made quick friends with another visiting child and settled down to build with magnetized blocks.
In all, we spent an hour and a half actively exploring the exhibit and enjoying each interactive. We added our own drops of hope to the courtyard fountain, designed a unique Islamic building, dressed and redressed ourselves in Senegalese fabric, loaded and unloaded a diversity of goods for trade on a boat, translated and practiced writing our names in 20 languages and composed music using traditional instruments from countries all along the Silk Road.
We left the exhibit only because our stomachs were beginning to growl and could have gone back to spend more time looking closer at everyday objects from Muhammad Ali’s home.
Although America to Zanzibar is designed for children ages 2-10, my entire family consisting of three adults, a 6, 9, and 12 year old all found activities to engage both their senses and curiosity.
Want to learn more about your fellow Muslim Kentuckians and Americans? Consider attending one of the following family days at the Muhammad Ali Center:
America to Zanzibar Family Days | September 30, October 20, December 8, 2018
By Guest Contributor: Nicole