Ramadan Kareem 2020: Celebrate and Learn

A celebratory and informative webinar for Muslim and Non-Muslim members of the University of Bristol was a huge success . The event was a joint effort between the Global Lounge, Student Inclusion Team, and the BME Success programme, with support from BRISOC and the Multifaith Chaplaincy.

On Thursday the 30th of April, the Global Lounge’s first ever digital cultural event unfolded. Over 60 people attended the webinar on Blackboard Collaborate for a chance to learn about – and celebrate – the Islamic month of Ramadan. After welcoming statements from Deputy-Vice Chancellor and University of Bristol Provost, Prof Judith Squires, the session featured several speakers and launched the BME Success Programme’s inclusive guide for supporting Muslim students.

In lieu of the food stalls the Global Lounge has offered at previous events, food delivery vouchers were distributed to Muslim attendees. Non-Muslim attendees were also offered vouchers in return for pledging to spend a day fasting; the Global Lounge aimed to show solidarity with Muslim colleagues and to create a greater understanding of the Ramadan experience, while respecting the Ramadan tradition of sharing food.

Significant experiences

“Ramadan is a time of self-reflection and improvement” – Nimra Naeem, BME Success Advocate

Bristol Islamic Society president Hussain Abass opened the event with an introduction to Ramadan. Hussain shared the holy month’s origins in the Qur’an, as well as the traditions that accompany it, such as fasting and a full prayer schedule – as well as heightened self-reflection and community involvement. As he told attendees, “[fasting] is not just to taste hunger and taste what poverty is like, it’s to develop our character.”

Building on Hussain’s introduction, Nimra Naeem, a Be More Empowered (BME) Success Advocate, divulged some of the experiences that she, and others, undergo as Muslim students celebrating Ramadan. Here, she outlined that students often experience a shift in their priorities as they dedicate themselves to self-reflection. However, Nimra also spoke about some of the challenges of Ramadan: students must manage the physical toll of fasting and interrupting their sleep pattern to pray, alongside fulfilling their usual personal and educational responsibilities. In efforts to curb these effects, Nimra offered event attendees some tips, like adjusting your sleep and study patterns to maximise your wellbeing. Here, she reminded students that may have misgivings about how they spend Ramadan that “studying is a type of ibadah” (worship). Given that isolated students might be feeling particularly homesick during Ramadan, as it is usually a time for family and community, Nimra also suggested regularly facetiming loved-ones and attending digital events that Islamic cultural societies and mosques are holding (see links at end).

Support in the Bristol community

Next, Robiu Salisu, Bristol University BAME Student Inclusion Officer, launched the inclusive guide for supporting Muslim students. Robiu outlined how some of Ramadan’s challenges can be mitigated by support from University staff and students, and how the guide gives them the tools to do so. For example, the guide raises awareness about the prayer needs that Muslim students might have, including short breaks from seminars at specific prayer times and access to clean, safe spaces to pray around University.

Robiu was joined by Munira Hashmi, one of Bristol University’s Muslim Chaplains, as they spoke about facing the Covid-19 crisis during Ramadan. After Robiu shared the Muslim Council of Britain’s ‘Ramadan at Home’ guide, Munira explained how the Qur’an offers advice for navigating the crisis by prioritising the safeguarding of life and the practice of patience. Munira, who has worked at the Multifaith Chaplaincy for 10 years, offered her support to Muslim and non-Muslim attendees alike— as she told attendees, “despite our best efforts, isolation and loneliness can be very emotional”.  She can be contacted here.

Lastly, after a lively Q&A and the sharing of tips with and from attendees (see below), the presenters distributed some final resources, such as links to the Bristol SU’s virtual Friday Iftar events and the free Iftar bags that charity organisation Sawa in Janna are offering to Muslim students who have had to remain in Bristol.

Tips from our attendees

Some of our attendees had great advice for fasting, which they shared in the group conversation during the event:

    • Prepare for fasting by eating slow-release foods beforehand, like oats and bananas
    • During your fast, remove items that remind you of food or water
    • If you start to feel dehydrated, try spraying the air with cold rosewater
    • Save your shower for when you can most refresh yourself, like in the afternoon so you can work till Iftar (Ramadan’s sunset meal)
    • Use mentholated topical ointments for headaches, as you don’t have to consume them for them to relieve pain

Indeed, Robiu found that performing wudu (ablutions before praying) helps refresh him through the day. In terms of finding relief at Iftar, attendees gave a whole host of suggestions for what foods best re-hydrate, including yogurt, dates, watermelon, cucumber and chia seeds with water. Indeed, these high water content foods can be great to consume before fasting to keep thirst at bay.

Other attendees shared tips for having a fulfilling Ramadan without feeling overwhelmed, like setting seven tasks for you to accomplish over a week, or breaking down reading the Qu’ran into ayahs (verses). Lastly, one participant reminded others that they don’t need an “all or nothing approach. No matter what improvement you make this year, no matter how small, it’s valuable”.

Ramadan Kareem: Celebrate and Learn from Global Lounge on Vimeo.

Useful resources:

Inclusive Guide for Supporting Muslim Students
https://uob.sharepoint.com/:b:/t/grp-BMESuccess/EeguXjMuPg1PgFUYUN7MbfcBmHaeociQE8_Mg0MWqWqwIg?e=XfKH8p

Bristol University places to worship
https://www.bristol.ac.uk/multifaith-chaplaincy/places-to-worship/

Bristol Multifaith Chaplaincy
https://www.bristol.ac.uk/multifaith-chaplaincy/

Bristol Islamic Society Facebook
https://www.facebook.com/groups/brisoc

Be More Empowered for Success programme
https://www.bristol.ac.uk/directory/student-inclusion-services/student-inclusion-team/bame/

Bristol SU Friday virtual Iftar
https://www.facebook.com/events/648595005706812/

Sawa in Janna – free Iftar bags
https://www.facebook.com/Sawa-in-Janna-Open-Iftar-111018550365560/

Muslim Council of Britain – Ramadan at Home
https://mcb.org.uk/wp-content/uploads/2020/04/MCB-Ramadan-2020-Guidance.pdf

Global Carnival 2020

An evening of entertainment and activities from across the globe for students and staff!

On Wednesday 11 March, over two hundred students and staff gathered to enjoy an annual showcase of dance and music performances, organised by the Global Lounge in collaboration with Bristol Students’ Union and International Students’ Network.

Trying something new

There was something for everyone to enjoy with a range of craft and activity stalls followed by a diverse programme of performances from across the globe.

Visitors could try their hand at origami making, solve Palestinian folklore riddles and see beautiful examples of traditional outfits from the Friends of Palestine society. There were also Lebanese food samples to taste and food samples and games from the Mexican Culture Society. The delicious vegan Thai curry was a hit – served to all guests as part of the festivities!

Fantastic performances

Lion dance

The show started off with the Lion Dance Troop who made a spectacular entrance into the Anson Rooms, getting up close to the seated audience.

The all-male group, Academy A Capella, impressed everyone with their rendition of Toxic by Britney Spears. They reached the UK finals last year and are focusing their efforts on releasing a debut album.

Siddarth Sreekanth performing Indian drumming

First-year Economics and Politics student Siddarth Sreekanth kept things upbeat with some fantastic Indian drumming. Originally from Bangalore, he performed on an instrument called the Mridangam (muh-ruh-dang-um), which is a percussion instrument used in Carnatic Music, which is a form of Indian classical music.

Gospel choir

Changing things up, the next act on stage was a collaboration between PakSoc and BanglaSoc – a fashion show which gave the audience a taste of their culture’s traditional clothing combined with popular music straight from Pakistan and Bangladesh. The lively performance featured beautiful outfits such as shalwar kamiz, longi and shervani with the models showing off the outfits whilst making fun poses and dancing along to their favourite songs!

The Gospel Choir were up next – a group of individuals who enjoy singing and praising God together. Their beautiful vocals and harmonies impressed all who were in the room.

Hosts, Roy and Lara broke things up with an interactive quiz, asking members of the audience to tell everyone what things they like about their own culture and also what they enjoy about others. There was great participation with many raising their hands to give their answers – most of which revolved around food!

The evening was rounded off with a Qawwali performance, which uses semi-classical Asian singing techniques and rhythmic clapping. This group is the UK’s first university-born qawwali group, called Virsa Qawwali.

 

 

A Glimpse into the World of Indian Dance

University of Bristol staff and students came together for the first big Global Lounge event of 2020; a Glimpse into the World of Indian Dance.

Attendees enjoyed classical dance performances and a delicious meal, organised by the Global Lounge in collaboration with students Aditya Sharma and Deepa Lakshmi.

Showtime

Just under 200 people attended the Indian dance event, held in Anson Rooms in the Richmond Building on Thursday 6 Febraury. A free delicious, authentic Indian meal and refreshments were provided after the show which many stayed on to enjoy whilst socialising and chatting to the performers.

Aditya and Deepa showcased two very distinct and popular forms of Indian dance: Kathak and Bharatanatyam. Their performances were accompanied by their stories, which explained each dance and its cultural significance, presenting a modern, fresh and personal take on the traditional roots of Indian choreography.

Meet Deepa and Aditya

Aditya Sharma approached the Global Lounge to hold this event and, along with Deepa Lakshmi, curated their performances especially for the Global Lounge, putting much time and effort into the event.

Aditya Sharma is a senior Kathak dancer with eight years of experience. He is the founder and artistic director of Yatra Dance productions, a classical dance choreography unit in Bangalore. He is currently pursuing a Master’s in Management (Marketing).

Deepa Lakshmi is a senior Bharatanatyam artist from Chennai. She has been training in the discipline since the age of four and has received many accolades. Deepa is currently pursuing a Master’s in Law.

The elaborate performances and beautiful outfits made it an immersive and entertaining experience for the audience. The dancers carefully curated their technique and style to showcase the art form in a modern and exciting way, while maintaining the roots and traditions of the choreography, music and performances.

Speaking of the success of the event, Deepa and Aditya said:

“We did not expect this kind of reaction. We were very nervous; thinking, how are [the audience] going to bounce back to us, would they be able to relate to it – we didn’t know whether they would know the history about it or not. But it just shows that art, music, dance; you don’t need a lot of commonalities to understand it. If you have the music, your feet are going to start tapping, and you start dancing – so you don’t need to know the background to enjoy anything.”