Danah Abdulla ’12: Challenging the Status Quo

Danah Abdulla is founder of Kalimat, an open outlet that puts creative Arabs on the international stage

Danah Abdulla ’12 came to MICA on a mission. The ethnic Palestinian had been volunteering at An-Najah National University in Nablus on the West Bank when she noticed students had a lot to say but lacked a platform to speak their minds.

“That’s when the idea for an open outlet, one that could put creative Arabs on the international stage, came to my mind,” she recalls. Taking the name Kalimat, which simply means “words” in Arabic, Abdulla started a magazine with the purpose to challenge the status quo.

“By being an open outlet for political, social, and cultural expression, Arabs from around the world are able to engage in thought and action, and to break down stereotypes through education,” she explained.

Knowing she wanted to pursue graduate studies, Abdulla searched far and wide for the program that would give her the skills to propel her magazine forward. She looked to a variety of fields, including documentary studies, journalism, communication design, and media studies—but it was at MICA where Abdulla found the perfect match to further her quest.

“The M.A. in Social Design program appealed to me because it merged community and design, and I felt it would give me the room to grow as a designer and to pursue research on visual communications materials that highlight social and cultural wealth in minority communities,” she explained.

Today, Kalimat covers everything from fashion to current affairs. The magazine is distributed internationally and has grown to feature more than 20 contributors from all over the world in each issue. Now working on the seventh issue, Abdulla shows no signs of losing steam.

Kalimat was my graduate thesis, and I am set on continuing to pursue my work and research on it,” Abdulla said. “I’ve had various jobs and attempts at merging my practice and interests into one, and things with Kalimat just seem to fall into place.”