GVFaces: Ari Mokdad, visiting faculty member

January 11, 2022 (Volume 45, Number 9)

headshot of Ari Mokdad, taken outside with out of focus trees in the background

Ari Mokdad, visiting faculty in IRIS

Photo Credit: courtesy photo

Ari Mokdad, visiting faculty member in the Integrative, Religious and Intercultural Studies department, brings a passion for ballet and dance, writing and activism to her work.

Mokdad is a dedicated water rights activist. Her interest in the topic began after graduating from high school in Detroit and attending Grand Valley.

“My relationship with water changed when I got to Grand Valley and I saw Lake Michigan for the first time,” Mokdad said. “That was followed by me asking a lot of questions about class, race, accessibility and then the Flint water crisis. I realized all of these things impacted people’s relationship with water, and I felt like I needed to do something.”

In addition to teaching in the fall semester, Mokdad performed a water rights activism piece, “When Water Moves,” created by herself, Anne-Marie Ooman and several videographers.

“We worked with several people from the local community representing Anishinaabek voices in that piece to talk about what water means to the longevity of human life, but also as a resource we all need,” Mokdad said.

A versatile artist, Mokdad presented a piece inspired by water for the Detroit Dance Festival in 2019 and performed a solo at the Detroit Music Hall, called “Body Studies,” as part of her master’s thesis. She wrote a lyric poem, "Body Studies: Arabets," published in Elemental: A Collection of Michigan Nonfiction, which received an award.

“My art in a lot of ways is a form of activism. ‘Body Studies: Arabets’ was a true act of putting myself out there, but also just to demonstrate to people that I’m Arab American,” Mokdad said. “I’m very proud of my heritage. There are very few Arab Americans in the classical ballet world.”

She has taken and taught dance classes since age 13. Mokdad also enjoys caring for her bee hives, gardening, sailing, hiking, cooking and reading.

Mokdad earned bachelor’s degrees in dance, English and writing from Grand Valley, and a master's degree in English from Wayne State University, where she also completed doctoral studies in composition and rhetoric. She continues her education at Warren Wilson College, working on a MFA in poetry.

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This article was last edited on January 11, 2022 at 8:30 a.m.

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