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The meaning of MENA Heritage Month

March 29, 2024

MENA Heritage Month, celebrated in March at the University of Wisconsin–Madison, recognizes the vibrant cultures of the Middle Eastern North African (MENA) region, as well as the experiences of MENA-identifying individuals on campus and beyond. The 2024 theme, “MENA in the Modern World,” explored how the collective cultures of the region continue to evolve and influence contemporary society.

“Putting on the first MENAHM [since 2018] last year showed me truly how much our community deserves to be recognized and celebrated. This year’s heritage month is a testament of keeping this mission alive,” noted Dana Tabaza, engineering and data science student and MENA programming intern during a Q&A on the MENA (@uwmena) Instagram account.

The MENA Heritage Month Planning Collective, made up of UW–Madison students, planned and led the 2024 MENAHM programming with support from the Multicultural Student Center.  

Related: MENA leaders across campus share their thoughts on MENA Heritage Month 

Some people speak at a table.

Night at the Bazaar on March 1 marked the official start to MENA Heritage Month. The event featured cultural clothing, live music, food from across the region and activities including henna, tatreez embroidery, calligraphy and glass mosaics. At right, Jumana Tanner, member of the planning collective for Middle Eastern North African Heritage Month, speaks to Zaynab Yardim, graduate student, at a country table hosted by the Madison Association of Turkish Students. Photo: Althea Dotzour

A camera looks up at a student tying a bracelet on the wrist of another student.

At right, Aya Koji, psychology major and member of the Middle Eastern North African Heritage Month Planning Collective, ties a bracelet with initials and the evil eye on the wrist of Sahil Naphade, a graduate student in computer science. Photo: Althea Dotzour

Two people smile and dance.

Meric Kilincci and Selenay Aydin break into an impromptu dance at the month’s kickoff event, “Night at the Bazaar,” a celebration of the sights and sounds of the region’s heritage. Photo: Althea Dotzour

People stand in line at a table labeling boxes of food and other goods.

MENA Heritage Month included Relief for Refugees, a care package assembly event to support local refugee families, on March 7, in collaboration with the North African Student Association. NAS fundraised $1,400, which was then used to purchase food and cleaning supplies to fill 40 boxes for families. PHOTO BY: NOREEN SIDDIQUI

Three students sit at a table and pose with their crafts

The MENA Craft Cafe on March 13 provided students with the opportunity to combine the modern art form of collage with contemporary and traditional images from the MENA region into a piece of art to represent themselves. MENAHM collective members Ibrahim Zaki, Diyaa Manasrah and Adnan Alaywan show off their collages. PHOTO BY: NOREEN SIDDIQUI

A woman listens to three people who are gathered around her.

The MENA Heritage Month Planning Collective hosted Palestinian-American Aminah Musa, co-founder of the fashion company PaliRoots, as the 2024 keynote speaker on March 18. Above, Musa meets with students at the Multicultural Student Center before the event, “Threads of Heritage: Aminah Musa on Weaving Palestinian Stories into Fashion with PaliRoots.” PHOTO BY: ROBERT SAN JUAN

Two women sit on stage in chairs. One holds a microphone as part of a group discussion.

During the moderated Q&A, Musa discussed how she uses her platform to weave Palestinian stories into the fashion she creates for PaliRoots. Above left, Dana Tabaza leads the engaging discussion with Musa. PHOTO BY: ROBERT SAN JUAN

A man uses a camera to take a picture of three people.

Musa poses with students after the evening’s event. PHOTO BY: ROBERT SAN JUAN

A woman smiles and points at a person across the table.

A Thousand and One Nights (Alf Laylaw Layla), held on March 21, created a space for students to connect over food and games, like backgammon and tarneeb, that have historical and cultural ties to the MENA region. Above, students enjoy a spirited game of Bingo. PHOTO BY: ROBERT SAN JUAN

One student sits at a table holding cards in one hand while another student looks over his shoulder at the cards.

Two students take a closer look at their hand during a card game. PHOTO BY: ROBERT SAN JUAN

A large group of people pose for the camera.

Members of the MENA Heritage Month Planning Collective pose for a group photo. Front row, L-R: Lena Mahmoud, Lojain Adly, Yusra Houidi, Dima Hamdan, Dana Tabaza (chair), Mohammud Ibrahim, Ibrahim Zaki and Ahmed Saeed. Back row, L-R: Noreen Siddiqui (advisor), Jumana Tanner, Ece Kilic, Rojaan Koupaei-Abyazani, Maha Mustafa, Aya Koji, Azza Bayoudh and Lina Zehra Raouf Photo: Althea Dotzour