Zende Creative Retreats are a collaborative effort of poets, calligraphers, coordinators, tour guides, yoga instructors and musicians – plus, of course, the ever-welcoming Eladio and the friendly restaurant staff of the Hotel Taray in Órgiva, Andalusia.
Medina Tenour Whiteman is a writer, musician and translator who will be running the warm-up poetry workshops, as well as co-ordinating Zende Creative Retreats from the mysterious interstices of space and time that we know as the internet. Her articles, stories and poems have appeared in places like Islamica, emel and Critical Muslim (forthcoming). You can find more of her work at her blog, Cavemum.
Daniel ‘Abd-al Hayy Moore, one of the western Muslim world’s best-loved artistic figures, had his first book of poetry, Dawn Vision, published by Lawrence Ferlinghetti in 1964 at the age of 24. Since then he has published forty books of poetry, many of which are accompanied by his vivid collages on his own imprint, The Ecstatic Exchange, as well as directing two plays based on his poems with the Floating Lotus opera company in 1960s Beat generation Berkeley, editing translations of Palestinian poet Mahmoud Darwish and spiritual verses translated by Hamza Yusuf, and even writing books on Zen rock gardening. He became a Sufi Muslim in 1970, performed the Hajj in 1972, and has lived and traveled in many parts of the world, England, Morocco, Egypt, Turkey, Spain, Algeria and Nigeria, before returning to the USA and settling in Philadelphia with his family in 1990. In 2011 and 2012 he was a winner of the Nazim Hikmet Prize for Poetry; this year he was awarded The American Book Award for his book, Blood Songs, and recently appeared in the yearly list of The 500 Most Influential Muslims for his poetry.
“For me the province of poetry is a private ecstasy made public, and the social role of the poet is to display moments of shared universal epiphanies capable of healing our sense of mortal estrangement—from ourselves, from each other, from our source, from our destiny, from The Divine.” He also publishes his poetry at his blog, www.ecstaticexchange.com, and his website archive, www.danielmoorepoetry.com.
Ahmad Zaruq Summers is the man behind Al-Andalus Experience, one of the first speciality tour guide companies to cater specifically to Muslim tourists in Andalusia and official partner of Zende Creative Retreats. A mine of information about the Islamic legacy of Spain, he will be taking us on walks through the mountains and revealing the vestiges of the past, whether through the ruins of watchtowers built by renegade Moors or the splendours of the Alhambra palace, whether through the irrigation system of acequias (still very much in use) or traditional olive cultivation for oil. He will also be masterminding and leading the add-on tours (Cordoba before, Granada after the 4-day retreat) for anyone wishing to have a fuller experience of Andalusia. For more info see www.alandalus-experience.com.
‘Abd al-Lateef Whiteman has led a widely varied career that has included stints as an architect, a musician playing with artists such as Eric Clapton, John Martyn, Richard and Linda Thompson and Yusuf Islam, Arabic calligrapher, typographer and book designer. Introduced to Islam through Andalusi music, he became Muslim through a Sufi community in 1971. He has been part of the emerging Western Muslim scene since then, working with people such as Hamza Yusuf, Peter Sanders and ‘Abd al-Hakim Murad as designer and consultant. As well as giving the Andalusi calligraphy workshops – unique in being a style that can be learned in one day – he will be giving the Qasida (traditional ecstatic song) workshop, offering a rare opportunity to experience ecstatic poetry through writing and song. For more information see his website and blog.
Asghar Alkaei Behjat is a classically trained Persian calligraphy from Iran who has spent over fifteen years working with Arabic calligraphy in Nastaliq, Shikasteh Nastaliq and other styles, both on paper and as murals, logos, posters and in graphic design. A walking encyclopaedia of Persian Sufi poems, from which he draws much of his inspiration for his calligraphy, he regularly leads workshops and classes for students of all ages in the Granada area. Not only will he be teaching the Nastaliq classes on the April Zende retreat, he contributed its logo! You can see more of his work on his blog.
Tahira Larmore is a historian currently working on an exciting new travel guide to Muslim Spain, which takes the reader on a whistlestop tour through the last vestiges of Islamic culture still alive in Spanish culture, cuisine, language and lifestyle. Originally from the US, she became Muslim in 1979 and has since worked consistently in the field of publishing, specialising in the history and contemporary state of the Muslim world. As a qualified and experienced social worker, her work makes connections between sociology, psychology, human relationships and spirituality that bring history right into the present.
Monica Poyato, our resident yoga teacher, has studied Hatha Yoga (a gentle form of this ancient bodywork) in India for several months over the course of many years. Originally from Madrid, she has given classes in Tarifa, Madrid and now Órgiva, not only to adults but also mothers and babies and small children. Her yoga classes bring together mind, body and soul, combining Asanas (positions) for physical flexibility and Pranayama (breathing exercises) to calm the mind and centre the consciousness. it is extraordinary how little we pay attention to something we do as regularly as breathing, yet how necessary it is for life! She then gives a guided relaxation to help work through emotions and cope with stress and anxiety. Finishing with a meditation, this is a wonderfully refreshing and focusing way to begin the day during the retreat.