Malik Gillani (a Pakistani American Muslim) and Jamil Khoury (a Christian of Arab and Slavic descent) founded Silk Road Rising in 2002 as an artistic response to the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001. Harnessing the power of stories to connect us, they set out to challenge the fear and hatred that fueled the 9/11 attacks and the anti-Muslim backlash that followed them.
Jamil and Malik’s vision was to counter negative stereotypes with representations that were authentic, multi-faceted, and grounded in human experience. Their focus quickly expanded beyond the Middle East to encompass the culturally rich territory historically known as the Silk Road, stretching from Madras to Venice and Alexandria to Quanzhou, China. Since 2002, we have worked with nearly 100 Silk Road playwrights and produced dozens of national and world premieres as well as workshop productions and staged readings.
Over the years, as our programs have expanded to include media arts, in-school arts residencies, adult education, artist advocacy, and production consulting, Silk Road Rising has emerged as an art-making and art service organization that shapes conversations about Asian American and Middle Eastern American peoples. Through storytelling and discourse, we challenge disinformation and promote a culture of continuous learning.
The Silk Road
The term “Silk Road” refers to the great trade routes that originated in China and extended across Central and South Asia, the Middle East, and into Europe, from the 2nd century B.C. until about the 16th century A.D. The dominant land routes connected China to Syria, then adjoined to sea routes, creating an East-West corridor linking Japan to Italy. These transcontinental caravans resulted not only in trade, of which silk was an important commodity, but also in tremendous cross-cultural interaction among the peoples of the regions; interaction that fostered the exchange of ideas and the fusion of art and aesthetics.
The Silk Road is a legacy associated with rich traditions of oral narrative, epic poetry, and storytelling. Thus, the celebrated trade routes serve Silk Road Rising both as a geographic guide as well as a metaphor for intercultural dialogue.
If we consider the many trade routes the Silk Road spawned and linked up with, then today, the modern nation states of the ancient Silk Road comprise some two-thirds of humanity.
Countries of the Silk Road