April 20, 2017, 12:30 pm - September 28, 2022, 6:24 pm


The Middle East Institute
1319 18th Street NW
Washington, District of Columbia 20036 (Map)

A Special Arts Program on the Human Impact of the Syrian Conflict

FORTY out of ONE MILLION ©Kai W​iedennhöfer, 2016

FORTY out of ONE MILLION | THEY HAVE NAMES | Necessary Things | Ta'sheeq (Dovetail)

Film Screening:
Stories of Syria

Panel Discussions:
The Growing Role of Empathy in the Arts | The Arts in Peacebuilding and Reconciliation

The Middle East Institute's Arts and Culture Program, in collaboration with the Goethe-Institut and Gallery Al-Quds, is pleased to announce a special program of exhibitions, film screenings and panel conversations on the humanitarian impact of the Syrian conflict, now in its sixth year.

The program brings together Syrian and international artists, as well as a range of scholars and experts working in relief and conflict resolution, to shine a light on the hardships faced by the Syrian people and to discuss the power of the arts to humanize a conflict, generate empathy and raise awareness.

All events are free of charge.

Kai Wiedenhofer, FORTY out of ONE MILLION
A photography exhibition on the human cost of the Syrian war
on view at Goethe-Institut, April 20 - June 15, 2017
Thursday, April 20, 2017 from 6:00 - 8:00pm: Opening Reception and Artist Talk

German photographer Kai Wiedenhöfer took portraits of forty Syrian war-wounded in towns, villages and refugee camps in Jordan and Lebanon between spring 2014 and 2015. The media summarize the number of casualties on a daily basis, but often ignore the wounded. The war will never end for them, as they will have to endure their injuries for the rest of their lives. Wiedenhöfer’s project aims to show the suffering of the civilian population in a modern war.
Exhibition runs until June 16. RSVP here.

FORTY out of ONE MILLION ©Kai W​iedennhöfer, 2016

Daniel Sonnentag, THEY HAVE NAMES
Portraits of the new kids in Berlin
on view at Gallery Al-Quds, April 21 - May 31, 2017
Friday, April 21, 2017 from 6:00 - 8:00 pm: Opening Reception and Artist Talk
Berlin-based Daniel Sonnentag’s photos of Syrian, Palestinian, Iraqi and Afghani displaced children in Berlin, THEY HAVE NAMES, address the individuality of the single person, their characters or stories, strengths or weaknesses, and their dreams or nightmares, beyond the stigma of being a refugee.
Exhibition runs until May 31. To RSVP, contact Dagmar Painter at or 202-338-1958.

THEY HAVE NAMES ©Daniel Sonnentag, 2016

Helen Zughaib, Necessary Things
An exhibition of created objects inspired by refugees
on view at Gallery Al-Quds, April 21 - May 31, 2017
Friday, April 21, 2017 from 6:00 - 8:00 pm: Opening Reception and Artist Talk
Artist Helen Zughaib has been engaged in reminding her viewers about the price of conflict since before the Arab Spring. “I think of myself as somebody who’s talking about the people who end up paying the price for war. It’s women and children.” For this exhibition, she has created objects in mixed media-- plates, shoes, tiles, wooden boxes, recalling the ways of life left behind or destroyed by war.
Exhibition runs until May 31. To RSVP, contact Dagmar Painter at or 202-338-1958.

Unfinished Journeys silkscreen with painted shoes ©Helen Zughaib, 2016

Ta'sheeq (Dovetail)
A multi-media collaborative project between Syrian poets, musicians and visual artists, featuring readings and art with musical accompaniment
on view at Gallery Al-Quds, May 13, 2017

Film Screenings
Stories of Syria

Short films by Syrian filmmakers, presented in collaboration with Art from Exile and Hawa Films.
Q&A to follow the screenings with Karin Kitsman, co-founder of Art from Exile
Wednesday, May 17, 2017
The Middle East Institute, 6:30-8:00pm

Shakespeare in Zaatari (2016, 34mn)
Filmed in one of the largest refugee camps in Jordan, the film chronicles the story of the production of Shakespeare's Hamlet and King Lear by the children in the camp.  Director: Maan Mouslli

Suleima (2014, 15mn)
Based on a true story, Suleima shares the story of a woman who supported the Syrian revolution from its beginning.  An animated film, it starkly tells the story of the days and years leading up to 2011. Director: Jalall Maghout

Jalila (2014, 22mn)
A documentary about the courage and resilience of Syrian women involved in the  uprising. Jalila is about women standing against the many injustices and horrors of war.
Jalila is not a character in the film, Jalila is every woman in the film. Director: Adnan Jetto.


Panel Conversations
The Growing Role of Empathy in the Arts
A panel conversation on the power of the arts to foster understanding and build empathy
Thursday April 20, 2017
A light lunch will be served at 12:00pm
Gallery Al Quds
2425 Virginia Ave. NW, Washington DC 20037

Rashwan Abdelbaki, Syrian visual artist, awarded a 2016 IIE - Artist Protection Fund Fellowship, currently in residence at ArteEast NYC, through September 2017
Elif M. Gokcigdem, Historian of Islamic Art , scholar and editor, Fostering Empathy Through Museums (Rowman-2016).
Daniel Sonnentag, Berlin-based photographer and videographer
Kai Wiedenhöfer, Berlin-based photographer
Helen Zughaib, Washington, D.C.-based visual artist
Dagmar Painter (moderator) Curator, The Jerusalem Fund-Gallery Al-Quds
The Arts in Peacebuilding and Reconciliation: Emerging Perspectives
A panel conversation on the role and impact of creative and arts based initiatives in conflict resolution, as well as in relief and public awareness campaigns
Wednesday May 24, 2017
A light lunch will be served at 12:00pm
The Middle East Institute
1319 18th Street NW, Washington, D.C. 20036
Michael Goldfarb, Communications Director, Doctors without Borders
Cynthia Schneider, Distinguished Professor in the Practice of Diplomacy and Georgetown University School of Foreign Service; Co-Founding Director, Global Lab for Performance and Politics.
Michael Orlove, Director, International Activities Coordinator, National Endowment for the Arts.
Tara Sonenshine (moderator), previous Under Secretary of State for Public Diplomacy and Public Affairs (2012 to 2013); Distinguished Fellow, School of Media and Public Affairs, George Washington University.

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Speaker Biographies

Rashwan Abdelbaki
Visual Artist, awarded a 2016 IIE - Artist Protection Fund Fellowship; currently in residence at ArteEast NYC through September 2017
Rashwan Abdelbaki is a multi-media artist specialising in ‎painting, etching, ‎engraving, digital art, installation and video. He graduated from the Faculty of Fine Arts of Damascus University in 2007, with a Bachelor’s degree in printmaking techniques. Since graduating, he has been featured in several solo and group exhibitions in Lebanon and Syria where his talent has been widely acclaimed. Abdelbaki finds inspiration in the many aspects of life and the world around him, however, the recurring main theme running through his collections seems to be that of Adam and Eve, who according to Genesis, were the first humans on Earth. He focuses on the complexity of their relationship, and is inspired by the many problems they faced after being expelled from the Garden of Eden. The artist is affected by the ongoing conflict in Syria and admits on not being able to easily isolate himself from the war and accept his lack of control on the disorder and calamities.

Elif M. Gokcigdem, Ph.D.,
Historian and Scholar of Islamic Art
Elif Gokcigdem is a historian of Islamic art, a museums scholar, and the founder of Empathy-building Through Museums Initiative. Her recent book: Fostering Empathy Through Museums has been acknowledged by the American Alliance of Museums (AAM) TrendsWatch 2017. She received her Ph.D. in History of Art from Istanbul Technical University and a graduate certification in Museum Studies from the George Washington University (GWU). Her academic studies focused on the symbolism of geometric patterns and figural imagery in medieval Islamic art. She worked as a curatorial research assistant at the Islamic Arts Department of the Smithsonian Institution’s Freer and Sackler Galleries. Gokcigdem presented her work at international conferences such as the European Science Foundation Conference, the AAM Annual Meeting, and the Association of Science and Technology Centers Conference.

Michael Goldfarb
Communications Director, Doctors Without Borders
Michael Goldfarb is the communications director at Doctors Without Borders/Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) USA, a post he assumed in the summer of 2015. He oversees all public communications activities, including media relations, public events, digital and print platforms, and emergency and advocacy communications initiatives and campaigns. He first joined MSF as a press officer in 2005, later becoming media relations director. Goldfarb has extensive experience in the field, working as an emergency communications coordinator, media liaison, and content producer. He has worked in Afghanistan; Cameroon; Democratic Republic of Congo; Haiti; Iraq; Jordan; Kenya; Lebanon; Niger; the Palestinian Territories; Rockaway, Queens (post-Hurricane Sandy); South Sudan; Uganda; and Yemen in settings ranging from conflict zones to natural disasters and refugee camps, and in contexts including epidemics and other medical emergencies. He holds a master's in international affairs degree from the School of International and Public Affairs at Columbia University, where he concentrated on international media and communications and the Middle East. He earned a bachelor of arts degree in political science from York University in Toronto.

Karin Kitsman
Co-founder, Art from Exile
Karin Kitsman is the co-founder of Art from Exile, which works to provide exhibition opportunties for emerging artists who have been displaced by war, conflict, political violence, or persecution. By identifying exhibition spaces, curating exhibitions, creating atelier opportunities, finding studio spaces, and securing materials, Art from Exile aims to create opportunities for emerging artists to show their work, connect them to local artists in their places of exile, and introduce them to collectors and a broader artistic community.

Michael Orlove
Artist Communities, Presenting & Multidisciplinary Works Director, International Activities Coordinator
Michael Orlove currently serves as the director of Artist Communities and Presenting & Multidisciplinary Works for the National Endowment for the Arts and has responsibility over the NEA's international programs. Orlove provides oversight on grants for presenting and artist communities projects and manages international partnership programs. A native of Chicago, Orlove spent 19 years as senior program director for the Chicago Department of Cultural Affairs. His tenure with the department led to nearly two decades of innovation, creativity, and passion for public service with the City of Chicago. Orlove helped transform the Chicago Cultural Center into a prime downtown performing arts venue, as well as launched Chicago SummerDance and World Music Festival: Chicago, two staples in the summer festival season. Orlove also served as the director of music programming in Millennium Park since its grand opening in 2004 and helped establish many of the program series in that venue. As a testament to his international expertise, Orlove was named one of the 'Seven Samurai’ at the prestigious World Music Expo 2009 Conference in Copenhagen, Denmark. In addition, he has been a guest speaker at numerous national and international conferences such as the 2010 Performing Arts Market in Seoul, South Korea, and the 2003 Sacred Music Festival and Conference in Fez, Morocco. Honors include being named one of the 'Chicagoans of the Year' in music by the Chicago Tribune in both 1999 and 2009, as well as one of Chicago's 'Global Visionaries' by Chicago Public Radio WBEZ and the Chicago Matters: Beyond Burnham series.

Dagmar Painter
Curator, Gallery Al-Quds, The Jerusalem Fund
Dagmar Painter is the founder and curator of Gallery Al-Quds, the cultural program of The Jerusalem Fund for Education and Community Development. Since the inception of the gallery, Ms. Painter has designed and installed more than 75 exhibitions, including many that have subsequently travelled in the United States and abroad. For her work in Egypt she received the Meritorious Honor Award from the U.S. Department of State. In Washington, she previously established and ran the art gallery of the Embassy of Tunisia and directed Gallery Patina, a non-profit gallery of the National Council on Aging. In Cairo, Egypt, she curated exhibitions of Egyptian and American artists; in Tunisia she developed a cooperative, designing and marketing crafts for local artisans. She has written and lectured extensively in the United States and abroad on cross-cultural and arts issues, at such venues as the Textile Museum in Washington D.C., and Meridian House International. Selected publications include Arts in the Islamic World, Ornament, Cairo Today, Focus on Pakistan, The Herald, India Today, Arts in Embassies, A Practical Guide to Cairo and Savior: Tunis.

Cynthia Schneider

 Distinguished Professor in the Practice of Diplomacy and Georgetown University School of Foreign Service; Co-Founding Director, Global Lab for Performance and Politics.
Cynthia P. Schneider teaches, publishes, and organizes initiatives in the field of cultural diplomacy, with a focus on relations with the Muslim world. At the Brookings Institution she leads the Arts and Culture Initiative within the Saban Center for Middle East Policy. The Initiative’s activities include research, convening meetings in the United States and abroad and catalyzing projects such as the Muslims on Screen and Television Initiative, which Schneider co-directs, and which provides valuable resources and accurate information on Islam and Muslims for the U.S. entertainment community. Schneider also has consulted in the area of cultural diplomacy for the Abu Dhabi Authority for Culture and Heritage. Schneider teaches courses in Diplomacy and Culture in the School of Foreign Service at Georgetown University, where, from 1984-2005, she was a member of the art history faculty, and published on Rembrandt and seventeenth century Dutch art. She also organized exhibitions at the National Gallery of Art and the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston. Schneider publishes and speaks frequently on topic related to arts, culture, and media and international affairs, particularly the Muslim world. Her writings range from blogs for the Huffington Post and to policy papers for the Brookings Institution. She held a Research Fellowship from the USC Center on Public Diplomacy to write a policy paper, 'Public Diplomacy and Culture in Afghanistan and Pakistan.' Her talks include a TED presentation on the global impact of American Idol, as well as speeches on the role of arts and culture in the U.S.-Islamic world relationship in venues from Kurdistan to Cairo.

Lyne Sneige
Director, Arts and Culture Program, Middle East Institute
Lyne Sneige is the director of the Arts & Culture Program at the Middle East Institute. She has over 15 years of experience in international development in the Middle East. Before joining MEI, Sneige was Deputy Director of Lebanon and Regional Projects Manager for Arts and Culture for the Middle East at the British Council operating out of Beirut. She has extensive experience in strategy and planning as well as project management, and has many years of experience in the arts and culture scene in Lebanon and throughout the Middle East. Sneige spearheaded several initiatives such as the Creative Economy and Cultural Leadership agendas in the region, and is a strong advocate of the important role that artists play in their societies, and a main contributor to changing perceptions of the cultural sector in the Middle East as an important conduit to social and economic change.

Tara Sonenshine
Former undersecretary of State for Public Diplomacy and Public Affairs; Distinguished Fellow, School of Media and Public Affairs, George Washington University
Tara D. Sonenshine is a former Shapiro Fellow and Distinguished Fellow at George Washington University’s School of Media and Public Affairs. She is the former Under Secretary for Public Diplomacy and Public Affairs for the Department of State and previously served as the Executive Vice President of the United States Institute of Peace (USIP).  Prior to joining USIP, she was a strategic communications adviser to many international organizations including USIP, the International Crisis Group, Internews, CARE, The American Academy of Diplomacy, and the International Women’s Media Foundation. Sonenshine served in various capacities at the White House during the Clinton Administration, including Transition Director, Director of Foreign Policy Planning for the National Security Council, and Special Assistant to the President and Deputy Director of Communications.   Prior to serving in the Clinton Administration, Sonenshine was an Editorial Producer of ABC News’ Nightline, where she worked for more than a decade.  She was also an off-air reporter at the Pentagon for ABC’s World News Tonight and is the recipient of 10 News Emmy Awards for coverage of international affairs.  She holds a B.A. in Political Science from Tufts University.

Daniel Sonnentag
Born in West Berlin in 1982, Daniel Sonnentag grew up in one of Berlin’s neighborhoods with the highest population of migrants, mostly from Turkey and several Arab countries.  At age 17, he began working as a photo assistant, and then briefly attended the photography school Fotografie am Schiffbauer Damm. His career as a photographer and videographer began in 2007, primarily shooting commercials for big brand companies, as well as actor portraits. In 2015, Mr. Sonnentag began volunteering at the ICC Berlin refugee camp, where he first met the subjects of his recent photography. Since his initial encounters with the children there, he has become a regular force in the camp, accompanying the kids on excursions, teaching kick boxing, and providing a strong “fatherly” figure for many. These experiences influenced his decision to focus his photographic work on the social issues of integration of immigrants and the communication between people of different cultural and religious backgrounds. The social media campaign, THEY HAVE NAMES, sprouted out of this work.

Kai Wiedenhöfer
Born in Germany in 1966, Kai Wiedenhöfer received an MA in photography and editorial design from the Folkwang University of the Arts Essen, and studied Arabic in Damascus, Syria. He has received numerous awards, including the Leica Medal of Excellence, the Alexia Grant for World Peace and Cultural Understanding, World Press Photo awards, the Eugene Smith Grant in Humanistic Photography and the Carmignac Gestion Photojournalism Award. Mr. Wiedenhöfer has published four books with Steidl: Perfect Peace (2002), Wall (2007), The Book of Destruction (2010, exhibited as a solo exhibition in the Musée d´Art Moderne de la Ville de Paris), and CONFRONTIER (2013, about walls worldwide). Solo exhibitions include “WALLONWALL,” which covered 364 meters of the Berlin Wall with works from CONFRONTIER, and the 2015 “WARonWALL – The Struggle in Syria,” which is accompanied by Syrian Collateral (2016). In December 2016, the International Human Rights League in Berlin presented Mr. Wiedenhöfer with the Carl-von-Ossietzky Medal for citizens who promote basic human rights.

Helen Zughaib
Visual Artist
Helen Zughaib was born in Beirut, Lebanon, living mostly in the Middle East and Europe before coming to the United States to study art at Syracuse University, earning her BFA from the College of Visual and Performing Arts. She paints primarily in gouache and ink on board and canvas. More recently, she has worked with wood, shoes, and cloth in mixed media installations. Her work has been widely exhibited in galleries and museums in the United States, Europe and Lebanon. Her paintings are included in many private and public collections, including the White House, World Bank, Library of Congress, US Consulate General, Vancouver, Canada, American Embassy in Baghdad, Iraq, the Arab American National Museum in, Michigan. She was awarded  the Artist Fellowship grant from the DC Commission on the Arts and Humanities in 2015 and 2016, and is included in the new Washingtonia Collection, and DC Art Bank. In 2008, Helen was invited as U.S. Cultural Envoy through the U.S. Department of State, to Palestine. In 2009, she was invited to Switzerland and France, under the US Department of State’s Speaker and Specialist Program. In October 2016, she traveled to Saudi Arabia as US Cultural Envoy, speaking to young Saudi women artists.

A Joint Program by

The Jerusalem Fund Gallery Al-Quds


In Collaboration With:

Art from Exile