On Friday, June 29, at 8pm, the Museum will host a public discussion of Ameen Rihani’s The Book of Khalid (1911), the first Arab-American novel, a story of two young men who come to Little Syria and return to the Arab world as spiritual and political revolutionaries. Its author, Ameen Rihani, was the leading Arab-American public intellectual of the early 20th century and wrote many poems, plays, articles, and novels in both Arabic and English. Todd Fine, the director of Project Khalid (an effort to spread awareness of Rihani’s work), will discuss Rihani’s importance and the new 2012 Melville House Publishing edition of the work. Fine’s talk will be followed by a 3D animation inspired by the novel, made by Brian Zegeer.
About: Museum of the Mother Colony is produced by artist Brian Zegeer in collaboration with the Save Washington Street coalition (Carl Antoun and Todd Fine, www.savewashingtonstreet.org), an advocacy group seeking to preserve the last remaining buildings of the former Arab quarter, the tenement at 109 Washington Street and the community center at 105-107 Washington Street.
Museum of the Mother Colony is a pop-up memorial for Manhattan’s first Arab neighborhood, “Little Syria,” to be staged from June 24th to June 30 in Battery Park, New York City. Part of the 2012 River to River Festival, the museum will be housed for a week inside artist Mary Mattingly’s Flock House, an experimental living structure that evokes the peddling lifestyle of the Lebanese and Syrian peddlers of the Lower West Side.
Much as Mattingly’s modular urban dwelling repurposes used materials to visualize a future of greater collaboration in post-industrial communities, the Museum of the Mother Colony will repurpose original family artifacts (photos, old keys, accounts books, etc.) to visualize the lost constellation of tenement houses, textile vendors,and streets peddlers of the old enclave. The Little Syria neighborhood along Washington Street, starting from Battery Park, was largely demolished in the mid-20th Century due to eminent domain actions associated with the construction of the Brooklyn Battery Tunnel and the World Trade Center.
On display in the Museum will be artifacts and photographs of life in the vanished community, a listening station for browsing old records, a map of the neighborhood’s former geography, informational videos, and a petition to demand the preservation of the few buildings that remain from the period (a cause that has unified Arab-American organizations across the country).