The Art of Social Justice

The Festival

This spring, the American University of Iraq, Sulaimani will host a groundbreaking international festival, The Art of Social Justice.  Seven critically-acclaimed guest artists from the United States, as well as a dozen Iraqi artists, from the disciplines of film, theater, photography, literature, and poetry will come together to address a single question: how can artistic expression help to foster social justice in Iraqi society?

The artists participating in the festival will conduct classes, seminars, field trips, and discussion panels, as well as create artistic work with AUIS students. The events take place at AUIS, Sulaimani University, and various other artistically significant sites throughout Sulaimani, the officially recognized “cultural capital of Iraqi Kurdistan.” 

Schedule of Events

Thursday, April 25
5:00 PM -7:00 PM Premiere: The Arranged

Sulaimani University
College of Fine Arts

Friday, April 26  
9:00 AM - 11:45 AM Part 1: Turning Personal Narrative into Art
Writing Workshop with Heather Raffo
10:00 AM -3:00 PM Part 1: Community and Memory
Multimedia Workshop with Michael Gallinsky and Radcliffe Roye
1:00 PM - 3:00 PM Part 2: Turning Personal Narrative into Art
Writing Workshop with Heather Raffo
4:00 PM

Film Screenings
4 Words 4 Our World  

A short film starring AUIS students and faculty

AUIS Conference Hall
4:30 PMShiren with Shwan Atoof and castAUIS Conference Hall
5:30 PM - 6:15 PM Dinner Front of Building A
6:30 PM - 7:00 PM Sunset Poetry Reading
Jamal Xembar

Saturday, April 27  
9:00 AM - 4:00 PM The Writer's Eye
Writing Workshop with Neil Shea
8:00 AM - 3:00 PM Part 2: Echoes of the Past
Multimedia Outing to Halabja with Michael Gallinsky Richard Maher and Radcliffe Roye
8:30 PM -10:00 PM Open Mic Night & Photography Exhibition at Kulture Cafe
*Open to the public
Kulture Cafe

Sunday, April 28  
8:15 AM - 2:00 PM Artist Classroom Visits Academic Building
5:00 PM Premiere: 9 Parts of Desire Sulaimani University
College of Fine Arts

Monday, April 29  
8:15 AM - 2:00 PM Artist Classroom Visits Academic Building
10:00 AM-11:30 AM Part 1: Comedia del Arte
Acting Workshop Jillian Armenante
12:30 PM - 2:00 PM Part 2: Comedia del Arte
Acting Workshop with Jillian Armenante
3:00 PM - 4:30 PM Sulaimani Performing Arts Forum AUIS Conference Hall 
5:00 PM Final Performance of The Arranged Sulaimani University
College of Fine Arts
6:00 PM Audience Talk-Back with Cast Sulaimani University
College of Fine Arts

Tuesday, April 30   
8:15 AM - 2:00 PM Artist Classroom Visits Academic Building
12:30 PM Opening of Community and Memory Installation AUIS Conference Hall
5:00 PM Performance: 9 Parts of Desire Sulaimani University
College of Fine Arts
6:00 PM Audience Talk-Back with Cast & Heather Raffo Sulaimani University
College of Fine Arts

Wednesday, May 1  
8:15 AM - 2:00 PM Artist Classroom Visits Academic Building
10:00 AM -11:30 AM Part 1: Acting for Television and Film
Acting Workshop with Richard Maher
& Jillian Armenante
12:30 PM - 2:00 PM Part 2: Acting for Television and Film
Acting Workshop with Richard Maher
& Jillian Armenante
12:15 PM Guided Tour of Photo Exhibition
Michael Gallinsky and Radcliffe Roye
AUIS Conference Hall
3:00 PM - 5:30 PM Panel: How Does Art Foster Social Justice? The Written Word AUIS Conference Hall
 Thursday, May 2
9:00 AM Writer's Field Trip with Chris Merrill TBD
10:00 AM - 4:00 PM Editing Workshop with Michael Gallinsky AUIS Drama Office
1:00 PM - 6:00 PM Day in the Park With Visiting Artists  Azadi Amusement Park

Featured Artists

Heather Raffo is the solo performer and writer of the Off Broadway hit, “9 Parts of Desire,” which details the lives of nine Iraqi women.  For her creation and performance of “9 Parts,” Raffo garnered many awards including a Lucille Lortel Award, the Susan Smith Blackburn and the Marian Seldes-Garson Kanin playwriting awards, and the Helen Hayes, Outer Critics Circle and Drama League nominations for outstanding performance.  Her play has had international productions/translations in Brazil, Greece, Sweden, Turkey, Malta, France, Iraq, Egypt, Israel, Scotland, England, and Canada.  Raffo served as the 2010-2011 Artist in Residence at Vassar College, sponsored by the Mellon Foundation.  She enjoys an ongoing residency in the Department of Performing Arts at Georgetown University.  She received her BA in English from the University of Michigan and her MFA in Performance from the University of San Diego.

Neil Shea is an award-winning journalist who has covered Iraq for over a decade.  He has contributed to National Geographic Magazine, The American Scholar, Foreign Policy, The Atlantic Monthly, and The Christian Science Monitor, among others.  His work has earned him the gold and silver Lowell Thomas award as well recognition as a finalist for the National Magazine Award and the Overseas Press Club Award.  For the last four months, he has worked at Boston University as a professor.


Chris Merrill has published four collections of poetry, translations, several edited volumes, and five books of nonfiction.  His work has been translated into twenty-five languages, his journalism appears in many publications, and his awards include a knighthood in arts and letters from the French government. He now directs the International Writing Program at The University of Iowa. He serves on the U.S. National Commission for UNESCO, he has conducted cultural diplomacy missions in over thirty countries for the U.S. State Department, and in April 2012 President Obama appointed Merrill to the National Council on the Humanities.

Jillian Armenante is an award winning actress and playwright. Her most recent film acting credits include the The Dark Knight Rises, A Mighty Heart and Girl Interrupted. Her many television credits include Scandal, Shameless, Grey’s Anatomy, ER. She played the role of Donna on Judging Amy for six years, winning a People’s Voice Award. Her work as a playwright has won her consistent critical acclaim and awards in Los Angeles for the past ten years. She is currently directing the US West Coast premiere of Jackie Drury’s play, We are Proud to Present a Presentation... at the Matrix Theatre in Los Angeles.

Michael Galinsky has produced six award-winning feature films and dozens of shorts.  His latest book of photos will be published by Steidl-Miles in fall 2012.  Galinsky is a contributing editor for International Documentary Magazine, writing articles about filmmaking and distribution.  Raised in Chapel Hill, Galinsky graduated Phi Beta Kappa in Religious Studies from New York University.


Radcliffe Roye’s work is widely sought after for exhibitions all over the world. He was asked to take over the New Yorker Instagram feed when Hurricane Sandy ravaged the eastern shores in October 2012.  Since then, Radcliffe has been invited by several universities to guest lecture on the rise of Instagram and the changing face of photojournalism. He has worked with numerous publications from Vogue to New York Newsday.


Richard Maher is a televsion actor and verteran set designer for Universal Studios in Hollywood. He is a founding member of the multiple award-winning Circle-X Theater company, and his acting credits include Madmen, The Office, Dexter, Scrubs, Bones and Torchwood. From music videos to chldren’s shows, his sets have been seen in half a dozen network tv programs. Circle X’s recent production of Bad Apples, based on the Abu Gharib prison scandal during the Iraq war, was nominated for Production of the Year by the LA Drama Critics’ Circle and described by the Huffington Post as “Destined to be a smash hit on Broadway.”

Shwan Attoof was born in Sulaimani in 1971. He began acting in 1988, and has participated in many plays, television shows and Kurdish movies. He has won several awards locally and internationally. He was nominated the best Kurdish actor in 1994 and was the Iraqi superstar of the Gulf Festival 2009. Attoof has been nominated as the best young actor of Kurdistan twice. 



Jamal Xembar is a prominent Kurdish poet and the first Kurdish TV presenter after the uprising of 1991. He lived in exile in Australia for over a decade and returned to Sulaimani recently. He mainly writes about his love of his homeland, as is known as the "Poet of Autumn" because he has written extensively about the season. He also has a degree in Law.