The European Chapter Group (ECG) of the IIS Alumni Association met for its annual meeting in Paris, France, in May. The theme selected by the Chapter Group for its meeting was Literature and Art: Expressions and Impact, which explored how art and literature can serve as an important channel to a deeper understanding of societies.

The meeting began with opening remarks from the Secretary of the ECG, Ms Zarangez Karimova, and Mr Shiraz Kabani, the Institute’s Head of Operations, Finance and Development. This was followed by a presentation from Ms Shams Jaffer, Senior Manager of Staffing for the Aga Khan Development Network, discussing the current activities of the AKDN and career opportunities that exist for graduates with a background in the humanities and social sciences. The first day’s events ended on an inspirational note with an insightful presentation on the Ismaili community of France by Mr Karim Valimamode, President of the Ismaili Council for France. In the evening, the alumni had an opportunity to engage with the local Ismaili community and share accounts of their personal experiences at the IIS.

The second day began with a tour of the Paris Mosque followed by a visit to Musée Guimet to view an exhibition entitled India’s Fabled City: The Art of the Courtly Lucknow. An afternoon session was arranged entitled PARIS: City of Light - A Presentation in Three Acts during which Hafiz Karmali, supported by Salima Bhatia, explored a range of ideas and themes. In Act 1, he introduced the metropolis of Paris as one sprawling, diverse art gallery. The presentation elaborated on the architectural monuments as expressions of France’s political and cultural history.

The second act explored expressions of art from the Middle East and North Africa found in Paris, with special reference to some of the most exciting examples of cross-cultural contemporary Islamic Art. The final act examined performing arts within the Ismaili community with reference to the stage play Ali to Karim – A tribute to the Ismaili Imams directed by Hafiz Karmali. Salima Bhatia, the producer, also shared the challenges of producing a major international event.

The highlight of the meeting was a Keynote Address by IIS Governor Dr Aziz Esmail in which he shared further reflections on art and literature as well as his thoughts on the role and future contributions of the IIS alumni body.