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COFA graduate wins Blake Prize

A video work showing Naqshbandi Sufi Muslims chanting has won UNSW@COFA graduate Khaled Sabsabi the 60th Blake Prize for Religious Art.

He is one of two COFA alumni and two COFA students acknowledged in the Blake Prize.

The three-channel multimedia piece invites the viewer to contemplate the space of traditional ritual. The Naqshbandi Sufis, who reside in Sydney's West and Melbourne, are mystics who believe one's journey is the return to God.

The three judges said the work showed a duality: “This space is both sacred and mundane, a place of worship and of coming together of family and community.”

Naqshbandi Greenacre Engagement (2010) was filmed over a three-month period and was the unanimous choice of the three judges.

Sabsabi, born in Tripoli, Lebanon, is an artist and community arts practitioner. He works with communities to create and develop arts programs and projects that explore people and places from broad social, political, and ideological spectrums.

On winning the Prize, Sabsabi said: “The work wouldn't have been possible without the generosity and good will of the Sydney Naqshbandi community and for this I would like to thank the Order for allowing me the opportunity to briefly share in their teachings and knowledge. To this community, spirituality is concerned with developing one's abilities and capacity through emotional, intellectual, and physical practices to work towards truth.”

The 46-year-old part-time artist is currently overseas as part of the Helen Lempriere travelling art scholarship.

COFA Dean Professor Ian Howard said: "Who would have thought COFA was such a spiritual place! Blake prize winner, Khaled Sabsabi, and Highly Commended, Hayden Fowler, are both COFA graduates. As well Highly Commended artist, Khadim Ali is a masters students with us, as is John Coburn award recipient (for a young artist) Carla Hananiah. Congratulations to all and may peace be with you!"

The Blake Prize for Religious Art was established in 1951 and is the oldest prize in Australia dedicated to spirituality, religion and cultural diversity. The annual award is valued at $20,000.

The judging panel comprised artist Pat Brassington, Dr Julian Droogan a lecturer in religious history at Macquarie University and Dr Blair French, the Executive Director of Artspace Visual Arts Centre.

For further information about the University of New South Wales, visit www.international.unsw.edu.au or email internationaloffice@unsw.edu.au

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