Washington, D.C., December 21, 2012—During the month of December, the Karabakh Foundation cosponsored a series of events dedicated to the great poet of Azerbaijan Nizami Ganjavi (1141-1209 C.E.) in cooperation with the Nizami Ganjavi International Center and the Library of Alexandria (Egypt). Events focused on a display of some 50 Nizami Ganjavi manuscripts that date to the 14th-19th centuries. —
The exhibition Nizami Ganjavi: Legacy of a 12th-Century Poet from Azerbaijan was produced in collaboration with experts at the Alexandria Library, as well as at Oxford University; Yale University; Cambridge University; Greek National Library; Kashmir University and its world-famous Allama Iqbal Library; HH Aga Khan Museum; Victoria and Albert Museum; Metropolitan Museum; Turkish National Library; Kyrgyz Academy of Sciences; Georgian National Parliament Library; Azerbaijan National Academy of Sciences; and more than 160 other institutions.
This exhibition was inaugurated by the U.S. Ambassador at Large for Global Women's Issues H.E. Melanne Verveer in Baku, Azerbaijan. In Tbilisi, Georgia, the traveling exhibition was shown under the auspices of the First Lady Sandra Roelofs, as well as Prof. Dr. Giuli Alasania, Chairwoman of the Caucasus Friendship Association; in Bishkek, Kyrgyzstan, under the auspices of former President and first female head of state in Central Asia Dr. Roza Otunbayeva; and in Ankara, Turkey under the auspices of former President Dr. Suleyman Demirel; in Ganja, Azerbaijan, under the auspices of the Mayor of Ganja Mr. Elmar Valiyev.
On December 3, guests at the historic Josephine Butler Parks House in Washington, D.C., ushered in the Nizami celebrations in an intimate setting that fostered discussion of the great poet. Dr. Ismail Serageldin, the Director of the Library of Alexandria in Egypt and its Head Librarian (the first person in 1,600 years to hold the position of Head Librarian), spoke eloquently about the poet’s intellectual impact on generations of literary figures and poetry lovers worldwide. Conversation among participants extended into Nizami’s record of progressive thought ranging from anti-slavery sentiments to advocacy of women’s suffrage.
Video taken at the event reveals the beginnings of a wave of appreciation for Nizami in the U.S. The Karabakh Foundation is preparing to develop public appreciation in conjunction with the Nizami Ganjavi International Center via digitization of the manuscripts and a range of public programs.
The second exhibition was held December 15 at the KF headquarters. Invited guests brought to bear a range of scholarly and humanist interests that underscored Nizami’s significance in the modern age.
The lavish splendor and exquisite detailing of the Nizami manuscripts hint at the enormous impact of this master poet over centuries. Nizami lived and worked during a golden age of Azerbaijan, marked by significant literary and architectural expansion—the age of the Turkic dynasty of Ildegozid atabegs, who ruled the Great Atabeg State of Azerbaijan, nominally part of the Turkic Great Seljuk Empire.
Considered a sage, Nizami mastered and synthesized various fields of Islamic thought, from astronomy to mythology, and also produced a substantial body of lyrical romantic poetry written in a colloquial style. He was also proficient in many languages; aside from native Azerbaijani Turki, he was well versed in Farsi-e Dari (literary Persian) and Arabic and he also seemed to know Greek, Hebrew, and Pehlevi, among other languages. He wrote his Khamsa (Quintet of epic poems) in Dari, which according to Oxford professor and Nizami expert Julie Scott Meisami was the lingua franca for poetry in the Turkic Seljuq Empire in that era, although in those poems he used some Azerbaijani Turkic words as well. He wrote his poems in a colloquial realistic style that captured the spirit of upheaval he witnessed.
Among top admirers of Nizami were Turkic-Indian poet Amir Khosrow Dehlevi, Tajik-Persian poet Jami, Uzbek-Chaghatai poet Ali Shir Navoi, Azerbaijani Turkic poet Fuzuli, and German poet Johann Wolfgang von Goethe.
The Nizami Ganjavi Initiative seeks to make Nizami and his works better known to English-speaking audiences, to make visible Nizami’s legacy in communities across the U.S. Anyone seeking to contribute to the advancement of the NGI can contact the Karabakh Foundation.
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