Saturday, 13 August 2011

Jassim al Nashmi and Pete Goché at Iowa State University

The opportunity of creativity given to a Kuwaiti Student at Iowa State University: Jassim al Nashmi has the incredible opportunity to travel outside his country, study abroad, learn in the best of the situations. He is at Iowa State University in the USA and wanted to work with an architecture professor and practising architect, Pete Gouché. 
The story goes as follow: 
"I decided to do an independent study with a professor I liked, but did not know what to study exactly. He suggested a course he had designed called Ritual Stations: simply put, you are to pick a domestic ritual that you practice by yourself or with your family and explore it, the end result is the product of this exploration, which can be anything. I chose Muslim prayer, so I asked friends and family what prayer means to them, what kind of environment they imagine would be most comfortable to pray in, what they think about when they pray.

I decided to design a space that would be the manifestation of what I had researched. This space was to be portable, because one can pray virtually anywhere, it was to be easy to construct, because it is for anyone to use, and it was to create a space in any room of any building feel transcendental and peaceful. With the materials and techniques that were available, it seemed like a praying mat was necessary, but also something that enclosed the space but felt like there were no real boundaries, which is what prayer feels like. Using traditional Islamic ornamentation, a permeable partition wall was fabricated that serves as a divider of space; playing with light & shadow and emanating a divine aura."

For a muslim arab student, the subject is thrilling :"ritual stations". Society in Kuwait is still attached to its rituals as a matrix of identity. Jassem picks Muslim prayer, uses the traditional geometric pattern so widely seen on mosques and buildings in the Arab world, and opts for a mat for the use of three adult males as he says "so my dad would pray in front of us and the 3 of us (my 2 brothers and I) would pray side by side."
This all looks like a repetition of what is traditionally available. 
But Jassem goes a bit further in his creative process and decides to twist a bit the traditions: he thinks about portability, about simplicity, about availability. He wants to create a place of prayer without clutter and without external input. 

It is a good trial for a young student in his capacity to encounter creativity. His challenge was surely to talk about a subject that is generally seen in the US as a symbol of terrorism. But did he really push himself to the limits of creativity?
What did his professor, Pete Gouché, consider for the project's evaluation?
Jassem says: "he was interested in our perceptions of our rituals and he wanted to help us explore them, he is a very humble man so he sees a lot that other professors don't see; he actually learns from his students. " 
The student must have learned the necessity to learn from others, beside professors, as the true way to connect with others.

The real question here is whether the student, with his exposure, could come back home and continue to explore the matter with full thrust. Will he be able to push his environment's limits and persist in creativity no matter what his peers' reactions are?
Will he think of integration rather than segregation? Will he feel at home with the whole world rather than an identification to country or nationality?

It is Kuwait greatest asset, beside Oil: young students learning outside and coming back home. It brings in change a step at a time, silently, slowly, without much violent or repression. 

Pete Gouché's website link


Mohamed said...

As your reader, I find this post the longest writing you ever blogged about (Actually one of the longest)
Did this guy send a mass blogger press release or what? he is all over the blogs as if he went to the moon!?

As a Kuwaiti i think there are more talented youngsters (and less egoistic) that i would like you to point out.

sarah said...

Thank you Mohamed for your comment,
The question asked is important:
Is talent valued only if it is publicised and spoken off ?
Or is talent, talent no matter?
In my blog I am not into promotion, My posts are about what interests me or what triggers an aha moment.
And this young student was the opportunity for me to talk about the incredible capacity in which Kuwait embraces as a country to send its students abroad and give them an exposure. It puts Kuwait in a modern connected outlook of the future. These students who started to go out for education in the 60's and later, are now in position to make a real impact in their country.

Did this student think he achieved something incredible? maybe. Is it worth disregarding other students who have a lot of talent? surely not.
Maybe he will in a decade or two, if he keeps creating.