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Poetic Portraits of a Revolution

Two NC State students have been witness to a revolution, and they want to share their observations with the world.  Mohammad Moussa and Sameer Abdel-khalek traveled with spoken word poets and youth educators Will McInerney and Kane Smego to the Middle East for two months this past summer to document the sights, sounds, and emotions of life in Egypt and Tunisia during a period of intense transformation for those areas.

Moussa served as a translator and interpreter; Abdel-khalek was photographer and videographer. The team got inside the revolutionary movements shaking the Middle East to collect oral histories, take photographs and video, and create poetic reflections.

They have now transformed the material they gathered into a live theater performance that they will premiere on January 31 in NC State’s Stewart Theatre, from 7:00 – 9:00 pm. “Poetic Portraits of a Revolution” is free and open to the public.

Dr. Anna Bigelow, Associate Professor of Religious Studies at NC State, will serve as facilitator at the performance. “When I first heard these young men interviewed on WUNC this summer I was so moved by the power of their words,” she says. “I thought it would be great if our campus community could also hear these voices, see these images, and grow in understanding of this moment in history.”

Bigelow says the project is important in part because “even though these are extremely motivated and dedicated artists, they are also just regular people who talked and witnessed the bravery, hopes, fears, and daily reality of the revolutionaries in Tunisia and Egypt. These revolutions are ongoing, complicated, and unresolved. Having this insight into the ways in which the people of Tunisia and Egypt imagined that their entrance into political action would unfold is an essential window into these history-making events.”

Although Bigelow says it’s easy for people in the United States to distance ourselves from political movements occurring across the ocean, she hopes many within the university and in the wider community will attend the “Poetic Portraits of a Revolution” premiere. “Recognizing that the activists want many of the same things that Americans also value—such as a voice in their governments, economies, societies, and futures—is an incredibly important insight for us all to gain,” Bigelow says. “Through spoken word art and photo/videography, we are drawn into both the experiences of the artist travelers and of the revolutionaries.”

In addition to the Stewart Theatre performance, a “Poetic Portraits of a Revolution” photography exhibit is open now through March 2 at NC State’s Crafts Center.

For more information about “Poetic Portraits of a Revolution,” visit and

By Lauren Williams, CHASS communication student intern