Hafiz Karmali

Director/Designer, Performer, Translator

Last summer, Hafiz directed two plays in New York City at the South Asian International Festival: Post Office by Rabindranath Tagore, one of India's finest poets, and Invasion! by Jonas Hassen Khemiri. The latter production won three awards including Best Director.

In the Fall of 2014, Hafiz staged Conference of the Birds at the Brandeis University Theatre Department and conducted a drama workshop/performance of Rumi Vaudevilles at the Ismaili Centre courtyard in Dubai.

In 2013, Mr. Karmali's encounter with South Asian performing artists based in New York led to M.A.D. Playhouse's production of Half-Hearted by Mohan Rakesh at the historical Off-Broadway Cherry Lane Theatre.

Hafiz directed War & Peace, an anti-war farce by Tawfiq al-Hakim and Rumi x 7 = Tales from the Masnavi in circus style with clowns and acrobats at the ReOrient 2012 Festival held by Golden Thread Productions in San Francisco.

To commemorate the Aga Khan's golden jubilee as spiritual leader, Hafiz co-wrote, designed and directed an international touring theatre production, Ali to Karim – A Tribute to the Ismaili Imams. At the ReOrient Festival in 2009, Hafiz directed three new plays (Abaga by Torange Yeghiazarian; The Review (a Skype play) and an Egyptian adaptation of Chekhov's The Marriage Proposal by Yussef el-Guindi. Hafiz was also a member of a panel on theatre and peace-building.

Cross-cultural performances

Mr. Karmali has a special interest in cross-cultural performances with a view to showcasing indigenous performing arts of the Islamic world. With esoteric fables such as Attar's Conference of the Birds and the Ikhwan al-Safa's Island of Animals Hafiz seeks to promote a better understanding of the arts and ideas of the Muslim world.

After pursuing his MFA (Directing) at Carnegie Mellon University School of Drama Hafiz served an apprenticeship at the American Repertory Theatre where he assisted internationally renowned directors Robert Wilson and Andrei Serban. While at the A.R.T., he was a Teaching Fellow in the English Department at Harvard University for courses taught by Professor Robert Brustein.

Other directing credits

Directing credits include: Azaan – A Call to Prayer (an Islamic opera in the making with performers from Tajikistan); Rumi Vaudevilles x 7 (tales from the Mathnavi enacted by circus acrobats in Tashkent); Water for Life (in collaboration with a dance company from Gujarat); Legend of the Baltit Fort (Karimabad, Hunza). Büchner's Woyzeck; Leonce & Lena; Garcia Lorca's The Shoemaker's Prodigious Wife (Festival Avignon-Off, France); Cristobal & Rosita; Dialogues of Buster Keaton. Carlo Gozzi's Love of Three Oranges; The Raven (Montreal); Jamatkhanas: A Journey (video documentary); at UNESCO in Paris, Caravane de la Paix — French and Afghan poets calling for peace.

Photo by David M. Allen Photography

Intrigued by the interface between culture and social development, Hafiz has been a consultant for the UNDP (Samarkand) and AKTC (the Silk Route Project). Most notably, he helped set up Focus Humanitarian Assistance (affiliated with the Aga Khan Development Network) in Afghanistan in the wake of the Taliban invasion of Kabul (October 1996).


Mr. Karmali's translations from French to English of critical studies in Ismailism include the introduction to Christian Jambet's La Convocation d'Alamut (published by the IIS), Daniel de Smet's analysis of Kermani's magnum opus Rahat al-'aql and a series of articles on Shia Islam for Encyclopaedia Iranica. A recipient of an Aga Khan Foundation International Scholarship, Hafiz spent one year conducting research in Iran for his doctoral studies on Ismaili philosophy at École Pratique des Hautes Études (Sorbonne).