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Sultana's Dream
May 2012

EYE WITNESS


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Opening Night Jitters

On Friday the 4th of May, the Islamic Museum of Australia (IMA) officially launched Boundless Plains: The Australian Muslim Connection. Boundless Plains documents the expedition made by four young Muslim Australians in 2011. Led by IMA’s Founder Moustafa Fahour, the group wanted to learn first hand about the Australian-Muslim connection from the past. City boys at heart, they had no idea what they would learn or what awaited them as they crossed the vast Australian continent on the journey of a lifetime.

Their journey resulted in a thirty-minute documentary and a book containing a beautiful collection of photographs and essays that provide a history into the world of Australian Muslims, set against the unique beauty of the Australian landscape.


A replica of Australia's first mosque at Maree, South Australia

***

The launch took place at the site of the museum in Thornbury, 10 km from Melbourne’s CBD on a chilly Friday afternoon. On the day the museum site was buzzing with television crews, reporters, publicists, and photographers.

We had been planning the launch for the past six weeks and were thrilled to learn that Yusaf Islam would be in Melbourne working on his new musical production Moonshadow and had agreed to launch the book and documentary. We worked hard to transform the aesthetically unpleasant-looking bottom floor of the old warehouse into an impressive gallery space to display the photographs the Boundless Plain’s team had taken on their journey.

3pm on the dot, Yusuf Islam arrived amidst a frenzied flurry of clicking cameras. Introductions seemed endless, as everyone wanted to meet the iconic musician. Baby boomers and Generation Y – it made no difference!


A smiling Yusuf Islam engages his audience.

Formalities began with IMA’s founder Moustafa Fahour and Patron, Mr Ahmed Fahour, welcoming our fifty or so guests. The atmosphere was informal and personal and everyone spoke from the heart. In describing their 13,000 km journey from Melbourne to Arnhem Land and beyond, Moustafa referred to himself and his three ‘amigos’ as modern day Crocodile Dundees – everyone laughed.

When it came time for Yusuf Islam to speak, his words were simple yet motivational. Education and unity were the front-runners to harmony, he told us. Then on a more light-hearted note he revealed that, until seeing the video, he’d never known that camels existed in Australia! He also announced that he would lend several of his famous songs as part of the Boundless Plains soundtrack.

Representing Prime Minister Julia Gillard (unable to attend on the day) was the Hon. Senator Kate Lundy. Senator Lundy announced that the Federal Government would make a 1.5 million dollar one-off grant towards the museum’s capital works. You can imagine the reception this announcement received from the crowd especially from IMA Board members.

The big moment arrived to reveal the Boundless Plains documentary to a new audience. I had butterflies in my stomach… I’d seen this trailer and the full version close to a hundred times, editing and re-editing, sending the video back and forth to our videographer. But now suddenly, with an outside audience ready to watch, I had opening night jitters.

The audience was an intimate gathering of approximately fifty people of mixed backgrounds and professions. Despite some of the ‘big names’ present there was a sense of informality. Even Yusuf managed a quick plug for his new show, Moonshadow!

After a slight glitch in the technology department, the documentary started. I watched the audience … what did they think? At the end of the showing I had my answer. They loved it! My nervousness had disappeared and I felt proud knowing that many of our guests left the event knowing far more about Australian Muslim history than when they’d arrived. It had all been worthwhile.

Maysaa Fahour

** The anticipated date for the opening of the Islamic Museum of Australia is late 2013.


For book sales, contact: www.islamicmuseum.org.au


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