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Light Ahead – Ashmolean celebrates communities and faiths of Oxfordshire

Clementine Scott reports on the Ashmolean's One World festival.

One World, a five-month virtual festival hosted by the Ashmolean and celebrating the diversity of faiths and communities in Oxfordshire, concluded on 11th April, with a series of videos streamed online entitled ‘Light Ahead’. 

This final event was introduced by Oxfordshire’s new High Sheriff Imam Monawar Hussain, speaking on the kindness he had witnessed in Oxfordshire during the COVID crisis, and more generally on the importance of celebrating different religions and cultures. This gave way to several demonstrations, performances and discussions. Topics ranged from the Muslim contribution to music, to dual heritage explored in collage form by artist Lana Al-Shami, to the importance of precious objects across the generations of a local Jewish family. 

The annual One World festival as a whole is stated on the Ashmolean website as a celebration of “the many communities and faiths in Oxfordshire”. Its particular theme this year, ‘Light in the Dark’, seeks to “bring hope as well as opportunities for reflection”. The events, taking place roughly once a month, incorporated multi-faith storytelling, music and dance performances and craft, prompting Oxfordshire Lord-Lieutenant Tim Stevenson to refer to the festival at its launch as a “creative tour de force”. Additionally, several of the events served as introductions to the festivals and holy days of various cultures, including Hanukkah, Chinese New Year, and Holi. 

One World was supported by various faith and cultural organisations within Oxford, such as the Oxford Jewish Congregation, Oxford Chinese Community and Advice Centre, and the Oxford Hindu Temple, as well as by the City Council. When approached by Cherwell for comment about the Ashmolean’s involvement with the festival, Mary Clarkson, the council’s Cabinet Member for City Centre, Covered Market and Culture, ruminated on the importance of people of all faiths and cultures feeling “welcomed and relevant” in Oxford’s museums. In addition to One World, Clarkson cited the Multaka Project, which recruits Arabic-speaking volunteers in the interpretation of Islamic objects in the Pitt Rivers Museum and the Museum of the History of Science, as an example of museums involving diverse communities effectively in their work.

All of the videos from the One World festival are available to stream here. The Ashmolean is currently closed to the public, but is set to reopen on 17th May. For now, it continues to offer a multitude of online collections titled “Ashmolean at home”. 

Image Credit: Lewis Clarke / Wikipedia Commons / CC-SA-2.0

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