Arts & Entertainment
One of the greatest caravans to ever cross the Sahara was led by Mansa Musa, the legendary ruler of the vast West African empire of Mali. In 1324 Musa embarked on a hajj, a religious pilgrimage to Mecca, traveling with an entourage that included 8,000 courtiers, 12,000 servants and 100 camel loads of pure gold.
It started off as just another hazy post-graduation idea: Two Northwestern alumni traveling in Amsterdam decided to quit their jobs in the U.S. and move to the Netherlands to start an improv group.
Crossing the Sahara Desert from the 8th to the 16th centuries, caravans with hundreds of camels carried gold, textiles, jewelry and other goods across the desert. To share this little-known story, the Block Museum of Art has put together Caravans of Gold, Fragments in Time — a first-of-its-kind show that celebrates West Africa’s historic and under-recognized global significance and showcases the objects and ideas that were exchanged at the crossroads of Africa, Europe, the Middle East and Asia.
After putting on a children’s theater performance during his senior year, Jeff Semmerling ’81 became fascinated with mask-making. He spent years honing his skills in the mask, and today he’s one of the country’s best-known mask makers.
For nearly five decades, fog artist Fujiko Nakaya ’57 has presented her ethereal, shape-shifting installations of pure water vapor in an effort to connect humans to nature.
Jennifer Croft’s 2017 translation of Polish author Olga Tokarczuk’s book Flights, originally published in 2007, received the 2018 Man Booker International Prize and was a finalist for the National Book Awards’ inaugural honor for translated literature last year. Croft ’13 PhD, who studied comparative literature at Northwestern, says that she felt a deep kinship to Tokarczuk and the novel’s themes and began the work of translating after meeting Tokarczuk in Krakow.
If you drove around Kabul, Afghanistan, in 2012, you couldn’t miss the billboards promoting Kabul Dreams, the country’s first rock band. “Seeing the images of three rockers all around Kabul wasn’t something many people expected,” says Alykhan Kaba ’18 MBA, who at the time was working in Kabul for a telecom company that sponsored the band.
Record producer-songwriter-mixer Thom Russo knows talent when he hears it. Last spring his manager sent him two songs recorded by a 20-year-old student who’s attending the Brit School, a free performing arts and technology academy in south London.
Longtime audio engineer and professor Benj Kanters now focuses on hearing conservation.
Miki Sawada '09 is a nomad, often spending a month or more on the road. But wherever she goes, she is never far from a piano. During three weeks in August and September 2017, Sawada crisscrossed the largest U.S.