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'America to Zanzibar' Exhibit Brings Muslim Cultures to New York City

by Frances Kai-Hwa Wang /

A new exhibition about Muslim cultures in the United States and around the world is opening this weekend at the Children’s Museum of Manhattan. “America to Zanzibar: Muslim Cultures Near and Far” is an interactive multimedia experience of a wide range of Muslim and Muslim-American art, architecture, culture, trade, travel, home life, and traditions.

 Children feel ceramic tiles at a stall in the global marketplace at the Children’s Museum of Manhattan’s new exhibit, “America to Zanzibar: Muslim Cultures Near and Far.” Photo by Aoommie Photography

“Exposure to cultural differences at a young age, especially through the arts and everyday activities, helps children develop a more nuanced respect for diversity as they age,” Andrew Ackerman, executive director of the Children’s Museum of Manhattan, told NBC News. “This is vitally important in today’s world, particularly in New York, one of the most diverse cities in the world.”

Designed for ages two through 10, the exhibit allows children to pretend to buy and sell spices in Egypt and fruits in Indonesia, captain a replica boat, travel ancient trade routes, decorate a Pakistani truck, explore architectural design traditions, read poetry, compose music, and visit a contemporary Muslim-American living room outfitted with objects donated by local families. The exhibit includes artistic works by emerging Muslim-American artists and a visual timeline of Muslim-American history.

 Two friends retrace ancient trade routes on a camel at the Children’s Museum of Manhattan’s new exhibit, “America to Zanzibar: Muslim Cultures Near and Far.” Photo by Emily Munro

“New York City’s Muslim residents make up a vital part of our city’s rich and diverse communities,” New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio said in a statement. “With ‘America to Zanzibar,’ children will have the chance to learn about Muslim cultures in an engaging and thoughtful way. We only grow stronger when we embrace and celebrate the multitude of cultural backgrounds that make up New York City.”

The exhibit opens Feb. 13, 2016, and will run for one year. Afterward, the exhibit will tour the country.

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