Spoleto Festival USA announces a new discussion series under the umbrella of Spoleto ETC (Engaging the Community)—the Festival’s education and community outreach program. This year’s Spoleto ETC Discussion Series, titled Exploring Omar, will expand on the historical context and cultural significance of Rhiannon Giddens’s newly commissioned opera, Omar, based on the life of Omar Ibn Said. Each of the three discussions—February 20, March 12, and April 23—feature expert panelists and moderators in the fields of religion, education, culture, and the arts.    

Discussions are free to attend; reservations are required and can be made at spoletousa.org or by calling the box office at 843.579.3100. 

Learn More + Reserve Seats

Cultural Ties Between Futa Toro (Senegal) and the Lowcountry
Thursday, February 20, at 6:00pm
Randolph Hall, Alumni Memorial Hall, College of Charleston
66 George Street
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Panelists Victoria Smalls of the Penn Center in St. Helena Island, Professor Elizabeth West of Georgia State University, and Professor John Cropper of the College of Charleston participate in a discussion about the past and current cultural intersections between the Lowcountry and Omar Ibn Said’s birthplace, Futa Toro (present-day Senegal). Using Ibn Said as a basis for contextual understanding, panelists will highlight the faith and cultural traditions of both regions. The moderator for this panel is Dr. Muhammad Fraser-Rahim, professor at The Citadel.


Islam and Enslaved Africans in Early Charleston
Thursday, March 12, at 6:00pm
Charleston County Public Library, Main Library Auditorium
68 Calhoun St.
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In a moderated conversation between historian Nic Butler of Charleston County Public Library and Professor Hussein Rashid of The New School, audience members are invited to learn about the City of Charleston from 1670 to the present. As the City commemorates its 350th anniversary, the Festival presents audience members with an opportunity to learn about the influence of Islam as introduced by enslaved Africans. The moderator for this panel is Brenda Tindal of the International African American Museum.


Omar Ibn Said, the Man
Thursday, April 23, at 6:00pm
Avery Research Center, College of Charleston
125 Bull St.
(Reception to follow)
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The world premiere of Omar, co-commissioned and co-produced by Spoleto Festival USA and Carolina Performing Arts at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, is carefully based on the life of Omar Ibn Said. But who was Omar and why is his autobiography one of particular relevance? Professor Ala Alryyes of Queens College and Dr. Sylviane Diouf discuss Omar’s historical importance and how his story is still relevant today. The moderator for this panel is Dr. Muhammad Fraser-Rahim, professor at The Citadel.