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January 26, 2024

2023 Reflections

Learn more about what made 2023 and incredible year for us at Shangri La.


Hauʻoli Makahiki Hou! It has been an honor joining the team at Shangri La as its Executive Director and I'm looking forward to continuing to build community with you all in this new year! As we enter 2024, our staff at Shangri La and the entire Doris Duke Foundation would like to extend our immense gratitude to our host culture in Hawaiʻi and the Oʻahu community for your ongoing support of our center in Honolulu. 2023 was a year of growth and learning for us at Shangri La. Below are four core themes that have guided us as we continue to build a more creative, equitable and sustainable future here in the Pacific.

Contributing to the artistic vibrancy of Hawaiʻi

Residencies: Our Residency program invites creatives, innovators, and thought leaders to Shangri La to produce original and inspiring work in response to their time at our center. Residency participants are also given the opportunity to collaborate with Hawaiʻi-based creatives and experience immersion into Hawaiʻi’s history and vibrant community. We believe doing so helps to strengthen cross-cultural connections between Hawaiʻi, national and international communities.

In 2023 we welcomed a cohort of five world-class Artists-in-Residence, beginning with Ustad Abdul Matin Malikzada, a seventh-generation potter from Istalif, Afghanistan. The residency focused on building community with the local Hawaiʻi Potters’ Guild and creating cross-cultural connections that have extended far past his week on Oʻahu. The residencies following Malikzada explored disciplines ranging in painting, theater, makeup artistry, and digital animation.

8x8: Shangri La is committed to providing a platform for local creatives, allowing them to authentically address personal and global themes through their artistic expression. Over the past few years, our 8x8 program has brought together visual and performing artists based in Hawaiʻi to create new work inspired by their encounters with Shangri La. Our most recent exhibition, 8x8: Source, opened on January 13th and will run until June 1, 2024.

Convening our Community

Nowruz: In March 2023, Shangri La resumed its annual Nowruz (Persian New Year) celebration, offering educational programming and building cultural connections between our Central Asian, Persian, and local communities. Nowruz serves as a celebration of nature's cycles, emphasizing the interconnectedness of human life with the natural world. It is a time for reflection, gratitude, and a renewed commitment to living in harmony with the Earth.

Elemental Excelerator: On Tuesday August 15, 2023, a group of leaders working across Hawaiʻi towards energy and water justice gathered at Shangri La to connect one week after the Maui wildfires and to listen to Catherine Coleman Flowers, climate justice activist and author of “Waste: One Woman’s Fight Against America’s Dirty Secret,” in conversation with Evan Weber, her fellow Elemental Excelerator Policy Lab Fellow and Dr. Kealoha Fox, President of the Institute for Climate and Peace who artfully facilitated. This was a convening organized by Elemental Excelerator in collaboration with Shangri La.

Women, Creativity and Power: Doris Duke was a woman with immense innovation, creativity and power – and Shangri La was the home that Doris Duke designed and built herself. In April 2023, we convened a conversation among women in the Honolulu community who share those traits. An event featuring similar themes in the spirit of supporting women in leadership is in the works to take place during Women’s History month this coming March.

Leading the Pacific Century

Trilateral: Shangri La has also become a center for important conversations of global significance. Most notably, in February 2023, we hosted the US, Japan and Republic of Korea for a Trilateral Dialogue in collaboration with East-West Center. Dialogue focused on deepening cooperation on emerging technologies, supply chain resiliency, and semiconductor industry initiatives, and served as a precursor for the historic Camp David Principles.

Nature, Art & Native Knowledge: In June, Shangri La convened “Nature, Art & Native Knowledge”, a two-part panel discussion focused on the importance of Native Hawaiian led conservation and land restoration in Hawaiʻi. The conversation centered on how Hawaiʻi can be a model for the rest of the world – and the importance of how indigenous arts practices also speak to conservation concerns.

Connecting Hawaiʻi to the world

Assassin’s Creed: Artwork from Shangri La’s collection also appeared in the most recent Assassin’s Creed Mirage videogame! This partnership with Ubisoft unlocked new ways for Shangri La’s historic collection to expand to new audiences. The video game industry is now larger than the music and film industry combined, and games like Assassin’s Creed demonstrate how education and entertainment can co-exist. The title series has been used in classrooms to encourage students to learn more about history and view historic time periods through the eyes of game designers.

From your neighbors at Shangri La, here’s to building an amazing 2024 within our community and across Hawaiʻi.

Mahalo piha,
Ben Weitz, Executive Director
Shangri La Museum of Islamic Art, Culture & Design a center of the Doris Duke Foundation

Supporting the Arts

Shangri La curates a variety of exciting exhibitions, residencies, and events, hosting a range ofartists, cultural practitioners, and thought leaders from around the world annually. In 2023, Shangri La hosted:

  • 5 Nationally Recognized Artists-in-Residence
  • 16 Hawaiʻi-based Artists
  • 5 Convenings on Nature, Art, and Social Justice

Serving the Community

In 2023 over 14,600 people participated in the public tours of Shangri La through our partnership with Honolulu Museum of Art, and 1,200 students were hosted through educational visits providing a unique introduction to Islamic art and culture.

  • 14,600+ Public Tour Visitors
  • 1,200 Students
  • 800 Public Program Participants

Shangri La and the Doris Duke Foundation offers a critical boost to organizations and programs helping Hawaiʻi thrive:

  • Generating $140,000 in annual taxes
  • Contributing $7,000,000 to Hawaiʻi’s nonprofit organizations
  • Contributing $75,000 for Maui Relief

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