recap

Contemporary African artist Eric Adjetey Anang, internationally renowned for the Ghanaian ‘fantasy coffins’ he and generations before him have created, spent the fall 2017 semester as artist-in-residence at the UI Museum of Art. He joined UI faculty and African art scholars on the December 7 WorldCanvass in a program called “Art & the Afterlife.”

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2017 marks the hundredth anniversary of the Russian revolution. That tumultuous century saw Russia reject the Romanov dynasty which had ruled for over three hundred years and embrace a new ideology whose leader, Vladimir Lenin, would become the head of the world’s first communist state.  The world watched as the Soviet Union re-created a Russian-dominated empire, lost millions of lives to purges and terror,  withstood the onslaught of Nazi Germany, faced off against the West during the Cold War, then dissolved, with Russia re-emerging under Vladimir Putin as a central player in global power politics. 

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News. Fake news. Disinformation. Fact-checking. Sourced news. Unverified sources. Social media incursions by foreign nations. Cleverly disguised mass propaganda that masquerades as a heartfelt message from a friend…….who knows what to believe anymore when even undeniably true facts are in dispute? This question was at the heart of the WorldCanvass discussion about “Journalism and a Free Press in the Age of Fake News.”

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WorldCanvass started its ninth season by teaming up with Hancher and its Embracing Complexity project for a multi-layered program exploring the beauty of Islamic art and the diversity within Islamic cultures. Joan Kjaer and guests discussed the great diversity that exists within Islamic cultures and traditions, ancient and modern, near and far.  They examined the many aesthetic, artistic, architectural, and other elements of Islamic expression that have made their way into the global consciousness and talked with a playwright who’s documenting the contemporary Muslim experience in Iowa. The show was closed out with a performance by musical group, Niyaz. They shared their musical vision, which is rooted in ancient poetry and Sufi mysticism, and their hopes to unite different peoples and traditions through a common humanity.

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Cooking with firewood and other biofuels is one of the most urgent problems in the world today. It affects the health and wellbeing of those inhaling the fumes at close range, relies on increasingly scarce sources of firewood, and contributes over 20% of global black carbon emissions. The harm to individuals and the environment cannot be denied, and yet there’s little awareness of the issue among the general public. WorldCanvass host Joan Kjaer and a panel of experts drawn from multiple fields including engineering, urban and regional planning, public health, anthropology, and geography discussed the use of traditional wood-burning cookstoves and the complex social and cultural underpinnings of the practice on the April 12 WorldCanvass, a highlight of the UI’s yearly Provost’s Global Forum.

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While immigrants have long fueled the American experiment, passionate debate about the pros and cons of immigration are nothing new. The rhetoric of recent national and local elections highlights tensions around changing demographics, inspiring debate about the impact of immigration on employment, on crime, and on community identity, while challenging the citizenry to examine their values and notions of what it means to be an American. WorldCanvass host Joan Kjaer and a diverse panel of guests discussed the history of immigration in the Midwest over the past century and a half, as well as current questions about bilingualism, multiculturalism, and belonging and exclusion in times of international and domestic conflict.

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WorldCanvass - Resilience Over Trauma
On "WorldCanvass: Resilience Over Trauma," Joan Kjaer and WorldCanvass guests investigated adverse childhood experiences and the negative physical and mental health consequences children and adults with these experiences may face. If left unaddressed and untreated, the toxic stress of childhood adversity can have serious health repercussions throughout a lifetime. But important advances are being made in the recognition and treatment of health issues related to adverse childhood experiences, many of them led by physicians and researchers at the University of Iowa. WorldCanvass host Joan Kjaer spoke with experts from a wide range of health disciplines as well as child advocates from the Iowa City Community School District and Johnson County.

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The focus of the UI Theme Semester in spring 2017 is the internet, the global system of connectedness that has literally made the world smaller. It enables the efficient processing of complex information, the transfer of knowledge and ideas beyond the borders of language and geography, technological advances few would have dared imagine possible mere decades ago, and rapid communication that can save lives, start a revolution, crowdfund research, and play to both our better and worse natures in interpersonal exchange. WorldCanvass guests talked with host Joan Kjaer about "Our Lives Online."

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What does the American dream look like to you? To your neighbor? How does your life experience compare with that of someone from a different ethnic background, a different economic class, or a different religion? These questions have been at the heart of the 2016 political debate but their roots are as deep and tangled as the history of America itself. With a closely divided electorate, highly-charged rhetoric, and unaccountable social media messaging, the chasm in understanding can seem all but infinite. Joan Kjaer and her guests discussed thorny, controversial, and critical issues of social justice in contemporary society on “WorldCanvass: White Privilege, Structural Racism, and the Dream of America.”

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Season eight of WorldCanvass premiered on Tuesday, September 13, in the newly-opened Voxman Music Building in downtown Iowa City. WorldCanvass guests joined host Joan Kjaer to discuss the controversial method of energy production known as fracking and its impact on the environment, social dynamics, and the economy. They also explored, through music and literature, ways in which artists have documented transitions and grappled with the drumbeat of change.

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