ARTS FOR NATURE PAYS TRIBUTE TO RUHIYYIH KHANUM
HRH The Duke of Edinburgh praises Amatu'l-Baha's remarkable contribution to the cause of environmental understanding and conservation
On Tuesday 15 May, HRH Prince Philip, the Duke of Edinburgh, joined around 150 diplomats and distinguished guests at a glittering event to pay tribute to the life of Amatu'l-Baha Ruhiyyih Khanum. The evening was arranged by Her Grace the Duchess of Abercorn and her Arts for Nature organisation, of which the Duke of Edinburgh is Patron. Ruhiyyih Khanum had been a founding supporter of Arts for Nature and took a great interest in its aims - to utilise the arts to encourage people of means and influence to make their contribution to preserving the world's natural beauty.
The evening began with a magnificent dinner and viewing of a selection of the Duke of Edinburgh's private collection of nature paintings, in particular the work of Canadian wildlife artists. In addition, architectural drawings by the distinguished Canadian architect and Hand of the Cause of God, William Sutherland Maxwell, Ruhiyyih Khanum's father, were on view.
Among the guests was Mrs Violette Nakhjavani, Ruhiyyih Khanum's devoted companion on all her travels.
The main focus of the evening was a magnificently conceived theatrical performance inspired by Amatu'l-Baha Ruhiyyih Khanum 's life. Written by Canadian-born actress/writer Beverley Evans, the show entitled A Life So Noble took four major aspects of Ruhiyyih Khanum's life and character and personified them in four women actresses, who told her story using words taken from her own lectures and writings. The actresses were supported by four other women - from Botswana, Macau, Bolivia and Iran - who wove a floral tapestry as the story unfolded, a metaphor for the rich and varied tapestry that was Amatu'l-Baha's life. The actresses - West-End musical theatre star Maria Friedman, Beverley Evans, Sarah Clive and Kerry-Ann Smith - conveyed with extraordinary power and emotion the breadth of Madame Rabbani's achievements. There were deeply moving moments such as the scene depicting the funeral of Shoghi Effendi when thousands of flower petals rained down on the stage from above. In direct contrast, Amatu'l-Baha's great world travels were portrayed with wit and verve, while a list of all her pets and favourite animals caused great amusement.
Among the other high points were a setting of Ruhiyyih Khanum's own poem This is Faith, by composer William Lovelady, and excellent accompaniment from a quintet of young musicians from the Guildhall School of Music. The evening ended with Ruhiyyih Khanum's own voice speaking at a meeting in Belfast where she told the friends how much she disliked saying goodbye.
Every guest took away a beautiful gift brochure beautifully produced for the event by Peter Maguire and George Ballentyne of Baha'i Publishing, as well as a specially compiled illustrated anthology called Sacred Earth, and a copy of Amatu'l-Baha's own book, Prescription for Living. Funds raised at the evening went towards the Mendelssohn on Mull festival which does much to integrate excellent musical performances with the stunning environment in which it takes place.
n his remarks at the end of a memorable evening, HRH the Duke of Edinburgh who had clearly enjoyed the programme said that it was important that people had an emotional response to the needs of the environment, not just an intellectual one. He praised Amatu'l-Baha Ruhiyyih Khanum's tireless work for raising awareness of the environment and her contributions to the network of Religions and Conservation. The Duchess of Abercorn told the audience that Amatu'l-Baha had left the world a better place than it was when she had come into it and that everyone has a unique and creative contribution to make and that they, like Ruhiyyih Khanum, could contribute their special thread to the tapestry of life.
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