The University of Iowa

Hancher’s project, Embracing Complexity, will take a multidisciplinary approach to building understanding of contemporary Islamic cultures and Muslim identity. Artists will be in residence at various times over the course of two years and will work with partners both on and off campus on a broad range of activities including performances, classes, exhibits, discussions, and lectures. The project will also document and explore the experiences of Muslims in Eastern Iowa through sharing of local stories and oral histories.

Our goal is to build textured knowledge of Islamic cultures, while creating a greater sense of empathy for the experiences of peoples of diverse racial, ethnic, and religious backgrounds. We believe this is an urgent program at this moment.

This project is made possible in part by a grant from the Association of Performing Arts Professionals – Building Bridges: Arts, Culture, and Identity, a component of the Doris Duke Charitable Foundation and Doris Duke Foundation for Islamic Art.

Negin Farsad

A self-described “social justice comedian,” Negin Farsad has been named one of the 10 Best Feminist Comedians by Paper magazine and one of the 50 Funniest Women by Huffington Post. She is also the writer, director, and star of the romantic comedy 3rd Street Blackout.

Alsarah & the Nubatones

“Soul crosses all cultural and linguistic barriers,” says Alsarah, whose astounding vocals were central to The Nile Project, which Hancher presented in 2015. Now, she returns with her new band to perform music she calls East African retro-pop.

DakhaBrakha – CANCELLED

The band’s name means “give-take.” The band’s members call the mix of influences “ethno-chaos.” The band’s voice is singular. Built on a base of Ukrainian folk music, the sound of DakhaBraka is equal parts old and new—a punk take on established traditions stirred together with a world of grooves.

G. Willow Wilson

In fiction, nonfiction, and comics, G. Willow Wilson has distinguished herself as a writer of remarkable originality and insight. In her lecture, Wilson uses the challenges Ms. Marvel—a Pakistani-American Muslim teenager—faces as a parallel for the challenges of a misunderstood generation.


The Fourth Light Project is a multimedia experience, combining live music and sacred dance (a dervish) with advanced projection techniques. The Fourth Light Project focuses on the life and work of Rabia al-Basri, an eighth-century Muslim saint and the first female Sufi mystic.