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2nd Annual Art in the Heartland celebrates talent and experiences of Oklahoma Muslims

The second annual CAIR-Oklahoma Art in the Heartland series continues with exhibits, film screenings, and productions and artworks by featured photographer Nadia Martinez. Photo provided.

By Darla Shelden

Contributing Writer


The 2nd Annual CAIR-Oklahoma Art in the Heartland series continues with exhibits, film screenings, and productions featuring local voices highlighting the contributions and creativity of American Muslims.  Art in the Heartland will take place Wednesday, Nov. 14, at Oklahoma City University in the Wanda Bass Music Hall Atrium. Gallery hours are 1 – 4 p.m. and the opening reception will be held from 7 – 9 p.m.


Adam Soltani, CAIR-Oklahoma Executive Director said, “With this year’s Art in the Heartland we hope to bring together individuals of all faith traditions and backgrounds to celebrate our commonalities through the experience of artistic expression. Oklahoma is a place where we have a long standing history of unique artistic experiences, and now is the opportunity for our fellow Oklahomans to get to experience art through the eyes and ears of the Oklahoma Muslim.”


Featured artists for 2012 are painters Tehmina Cheema and Salwa Elyazgi; photographer Nadia Martinez; musician Ali Soltani; photographer and pottery artist Sara Firdaus; and canvas painter Uzma Muzaffar Saleemi.


“There are not many prominent Muslims in the classical art world, especially in Oklahoma,” said Ali Soltani.  “To be able to make the connections and have the opportunities I have had over the years has been a blessing. I make it an obligation to communicate to others through my art form that the message of Islam is peace, and there is a common desire amongst individuals of all walks of life to gravitate towards peace.”


In 2011, CAIR-Oklahoma launched the inaugural Art in the Heartland series with a successful event attended by over 300 guests. The exhibit, co-hosted by the OCU Muslim Student Organization, featured over 50 pieces of art.


Samer Abdelkader, MSO chapter president said, “Last year this event showcased a great blend of wonderful Oklahoma artists with beautiful Islamic art. This is an important event because it allows Muslims and those of other faiths to experience a perspective of Islam in Oklahoma and the Midwest which is not often seen.”


Sarah Fords, featured artist said, “The exhibit is a friendly way to promote Oklahoma’s diversity and is a great invitation for those that would like to better understand Muslims through art.


Nadia Martinez is an American-born Muslim of American and Palestinian parents. Having taken only a few photography classes, Nadia is primarily a self-taught artist and photographer. An Oklahoman for the majority of her life, Martinez draws inspiration from the state’s unique features and tries to capture its spirit through her lens.


“My artwork celebrates and brings together the joys, hopes, and beauty of my Oklahoma home and my religion, Islam,” said Martinez.  “Along with my desire for capturing both the hidden and the apparent charms of Oklahoma, my Muslim identity also strongly influences my artwork. Breaking stereotypes is a goal of mine.”


Salwa Elyazgi started developing an interest in art when she was in high school. She took a painting class and began to enjoy it so much that she started skipping lunch to spend time in the art room.  Elyazgi’s goal and passion as an artist, is to represent diversity, love and the right to be who you are. As she continues her artistic journey, Elyazgi hopes to grow and improve her skills in providing beauty through her artwork.


“I have always known myself to be a dreamer, a person of creativity and one who strives for uniqueness in anything,” said Elyazgi. “My goal as an artist is to represent diversity, love and the right to be who you are”


CAIR-Oklahoma is a non-profit 501(c)(3) grassroots civil rights and advocacy group. Established in 2006, CAIR-Oklahoma serves the entire state of Oklahoma through its Oklahoma City office. Their mission is to enhance the understanding of Islam, encourage dialogue, protect civil liberties, empower American Muslims, and build coalitions that promote justice and mutual understanding.


CAIR-OK will bring Art in the Heartland to Tulsa for the first time on February 6, 2013 at Joe Momma’s in downtown Tulsa’s Blue Dome District. For more information visit


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