Once, as a child, I attended a Baha’i winter school and made the most amazing friend: she was creative, fun and had a smile that lit up the room. She let me read part of a story she was writing and I was so impressed and in awe of her talent with words and her ability to weave a compelling and absorbing story. Fast forward a couple of decades and I am so excited and proud to interview her about her latest project, a book for children about the nature of the soul and life after death. Esther Maloney has a special gift for creating enchanting narratives and I’m delighted to hear all about The Lovebird’s Freedom and how it all came together.
Baha’i Blog: Can you tell us a little about yourself?
I grew up just outside of Montreal with my family. I’ve realized that moments from my early years with my grandmother Lucille were very formative. She was immensely creative, fun and spiritual. We used paint and glue, we named paths in the forest, we wrote books together, wore costumes, sang songs and used these as ways to think about the big questions of life. Since that time, I have essentially kept doing those exact same things, but as a grown-up. I studied acting at Concordia University and worked as a theatre and film actor for almost a decade in Montreal and Toronto. I produced my own work, acted at the Shaw Festival, was a cartoon voice on CBC, did a bunch of commercials, acted in a film at the Toronto International Film Festival and learned a lot about my craft and process.
Throughout this, I had a nagging curiosity, which was related to how the arts, or making things, could be at the core of all our lives, both individually and in community. I worked with some inspiring community arts organizations through grants and eventually was able to serve with some other Baha’i friends in creating a project with youth who wanted to write their own scripts that extended the reach of some of the spiritual concepts in the junior youth program. Since that time, Illumine Media Project has created a number of short films and episodes which have been shared with thousands of young people and their families in Toronto neighbourhoods and schools. This work has led me to more questions about the role of stories, creative process and media in our lives and I’ve recently finished my MA in Education at the University of Toronto in that area.
Hope from Iran 3 is the final film of the Hope from Iran trilogy, and this time, filmmaker Flavio Azm Rassekh focuses on the unique story of two Iranian Baha’is who left Iran right after the Islamic Revolution to start a new life abroad. Their stories have a deep connection with the current situation in Iran today, and in the end, it all comes back together in a full circle.
I got in touch with filmmaker Flavio Azm Rassekh to find out more about Hope from Iran 3, and here’s what he shared: Continue reading
I’m excited to share a short film called ‘Hope From Iran 2’ by my dear friend Flavio Azm Rassekh in collaboration with Persian BMS.
‘Hope From Iran 2‘ is a follow-up film to its predecessor ‘Hope From Iran‘, but this film takes on a slightly different angle by exploring the lives of four very talented women who have been touched, not only by the Baha’i Faith, but in particular by the life and example of a famous Persian poetess and Baha’i heroine known as Tahirih.
Flavio is a filmmaker from Brazil, and besides truly being like a brother to me, we’ve collaborated on numerous projects together over the years, and his unwavering dedication, hard work, and passion for serving the Baha’i Faith through various avenues of media and the arts is always an inspiration.
I decided to touch base with Flavio about ‘Hope From Iran 2’, and share what he had to say with our readers: Continue reading
In the early days of Baha’i Blog’s Studio Sessions series, The Licata Brothers, Jimmy and Tony, were among some of the first we recorded (they sang “O Thou Divine Providence” and “Is There Any Remover”). I remember these two young brothers coming into the studio in Los Angeles, and when they started singing, I was struck by the folksy, nostalgic, and classic pop-rock sound coming from these two young men. The singer/songwriter duo continue to share their gift of music with others, and they recently released an album called Kindle the Flame. I got back in touch with Jimmy and Tony about their new album, and asked about the process and inspiration behind their art. Here’s what they shared with us: Continue reading
I was excited to discover a new Baha’i-inspired online magazine called One Report put together by my friends Anisa Tavangar and Maya Mansour. The e-zine is young, fresh, colourful, enticing, thoughtful and engaging, and I’m grateful Anisa took the time to tell us more about it. Here’s what she shared: Continue reading
Masud Olufani is an African-American multidisciplinary artist, actor and writer currently based in Atlanta, and you may have seen some of his incredible work featured on Baha’i Blog over the years. For instance you may recognize him from his 2018 ABS presentation “The Residue of Memory & The Clarion Call of Truth: Healing Through Reclamation and Art” or his BahaiTeachings.org talk Freeing Ourselves from the the Stain of Racism. He was also featured on their Cloud9 podcast series, and the episode is called Masud Olufani: An Artist Rooted in Justice and Unity.
More recently, Masud teamed up with our friends at BahaiTeachings.org to host a new podcast series called ‘America’s Most Challenging Issue’, and it tackles the subject of racism. As its host, Masud interviews Baha’is throughout the United States who are actively building racial unity by building community.
We reached out to Masud to hear more about the America’s Most Challenging Issue podcast, and here’s what he shared with us: Continue reading
We are living in exceptional times, not solely because of the global health crisis that has gripped the planet. We live in the shadow of 19th century forces that structure modern society, forces that Baha’u’llah and Abdu’l-Baha addressed. If you’re curious to know more about the age in which we live, Stephen Beede has authored a fascinating book that you might be interested in. It’s called Baha’u’llah, the West, and the Birth of Modernity: An Essay on the Awakening of Humanity. We asked Stephen about his new book and here’s what he shared with us:
Baha’i Blog: Can you tell us a little about yourself?
I am a plant breeder by trade, which means that I use the vast genetic diversity in my crop of choice to develop new varieties that serve both farmers and consumers. I work on edible or common beans, which you may know better in their form as navy beans, black beans or kidney beans. I started this track in my graduate training at the University of Wisconsin, where my major professor steered me toward the tropics. I have spent the rest of my life in an international research institute in Colombia, South America. Having grown up on a family farm in Iowa, I have always felt a certain empathy for small farmers around the world, as our program seeks to serve bean producers in Central and South America, the Caribbean, and East and southern Africa.
Afshin Jaberi and I met in the year 2000 during a summer school in Almaty, Kazakhstan. This was where I first heard a beautiful piece that he composed for a drama inspired by The Dawn-Breakers. Back then he was engaged in his post- graduate studies at the Almaty Conservatoire while serving the Baha’i community of Kazakhstan. Born into a Baha’i pioneering family, Afshin Jaberi was deeply affected by the early history of the Baha’i Faith, the hardships of its Founders’ lives, and the heroes who sacrificed everything for the establishment of a new religion. Later in life Afshin found a creative outlet in music to convey his emotion and feelings about those historic events. I reconnected with Afshin to talk about his music and his recent album, Eroica, which is a musical tribute to the Bab.
Alhan Rahimi is the author of Mulla Husayn: The Story of the Declaration of the Bab for Young Children and Ridvan Garden: The Story of the Festival of Ridvan for Young Children and she has also penned and published The Moon Was There: Glimpses of the Bab’s Childhood for Young Children. As a parent of little ones, I am so grateful to Alhan for creating these materials. Here’s what she shared with us about her book about the childhood of the Bab:
Baha’i Blog: What inspired you to write this book?
Baha’i Blog: What inspired you to make the moon your main character?
Not being able to have any illustrations of the Manifestation of God was the main reason for thinking of a some other way to illustrate the story. And why the moon? Well, I think it’s special that the moon, which can be seen from everywhere on this planet, is the same moon that witnessed the Bab’s childhood!
Baha’i Blog: Who is the book’s target audience?
Children under the age of 5. However, anyone can enjoy reading it!
It is thrilling to continue to hear about different initiatives created in honor of the bicentenary of the Birth of the Bab. We were intrigued to learn more about Mulk, a UK-based project that creates apparel inspired by the Bab and His Revelation. We touched base with Mai and Jan, the co-founders of Mulk, to hear more. Here’s what they shared: Continue reading