Music by: Emay “Set You Free”
Who is Monis?
Monis Khan is an idea man with an astounding ability to put things in motion. Since his arrival at Wash U, he has been involved in countless innovative projects on campus. As a sophomore he co-founded Drop Knowledge, a student organization dedicated to promoting the spread of knowledge through creative means. Drop Knowledge sponsors and supports numerous events including Live Art, October’s Brother Ali concert and other attention-grabbing installations, writings and discussions. In the past, it has also released a semi-annual publication and organized outings around St. Louis. Most recently, Monis wrote and directed the 2010 Diwali play, which addressed the 1947 Partition of India. A first-time playwright, Monis didn’t let his lack of experience threaten his confidence or vision for the production. With Diwali and with all that he does, Monis aims to generate dialogue and get people to critically consider their environments. He never shies away from controversial topics. He never confronts challenges halfheartedly. In this week’s video get to know Monis Khan, the man who makes it happen, a little better.
Want to connect with Monis? E-mail him at email@example.com.
Kuumba.tv: You wrote the play for Diwali this year. What made you interested in Diwali and in taking on a leadership role?
Monis: My experience in Pakistan this past summer allowed me to explore the literature and history of the region. I found the parallels of the partition, and the contemporary condition of the country to be in direct correlation with one another; the same stereotypes and inequalities were being propagated by an inability to adequately address the conditions in which these inadequacies were created. With Pakistan taking the front page of every major news source over the last few years, I thought it appropriate to tell the story I believed we needed to hear.
Kuumba.tv: Why did you go to Pakistan this past summer?
Monis: The Gephardt Social Change Grant enabled me to construct, coordinate, and execute the Karachi Creative Arts Initiative. Armed with three brilliant assistants, 500 colored pencils, and stacks of printing paper, we engaged over 50 boys and girls from impoverished communities in Pakistan to discover their innate creative capabilities.
Kuumba.tv: What did you do and learn there? Is there anything about your experience that you most want to relay to students here at Wash U?
Monis: I learned to take a step back and feel comfortable not understanding. So many things in life you don’t know that you don’t know. Embracing that enables a genuine learning experience in which you can work to provide what the community itself demands on its own terms. You can’t empower people. You can only create the conditions by which they can empower themselves.
Kuumba.tv: What was the process of writing and directing the play like?
Monis: Bringing the skit to life was an incredible opportunity, and one of the most valuable experiences I’ve had in college. Nothing could’ve happened without my talented cast, my committed crew, and my supportive superiors. I am truly blessed to have been a part of the production process, and to have become so close to so many loving people.
Kuumba.tv: The play is an integral part of Diwali. What effect did this responsibility have on your decision making when it came to writing it?
Monis: Having acted in the play last year, I knew what we needed to do to make it better. It certainly needed to be shorter, but I also felt that such a big stage required an important message. I was excited to take risks, confront complex problems, and put on a show that was worthy of an event as storied as Diwali.
Kuumba.tv: What else are you passionate about or involved in?
Monis: I’m passionate about doing what I can do to influence the culture of my community and move its members to accept one another as we are, and enable us to become who we would like to be. Whether it was Lock and Chain, Uncle Joe’s Peer Counseling, Diwali, or Drop Knowledge, all my work was conducive to creating this inclusive, active, and dynamic culture.
Kuumba.tv: What’s next?
Monis: Next semester I am really looking forward to being a trainer for Uncle Joe’s Peer Counseling. Though all Joe’s require over 100 hours of training, and organizing that may become overwhelming, there are few experiences I value more than my training three years ago.
Collaborators: Celso White; Kathleen Heist; Achal Upadhyaya;