7,630 miles. 12,279 kilometers. That is the physical distance between California and Iran. Culturally the differences span thousands of years, passed down through a rich history of dance, music, theater, food, and language. What happens when we are born into a culture that is both home and also 7,630 miles away from our deeply-rooted heritage?
Niosha Nafei Jamali created a home for Persian heritage of the past and the heritage yet to be created with her organization, NICA (the Niosha International Conservatory of Arts). She could see the longing for a distant homeland within her community and feel the desire to preserve Iranian culture, heritage, and traditions in this new home. The NICA Foundation presents modern and traditional art forms that bridge time and space, connecting people from all cultures and walks of life through art. She must be doing something right - 357K followers on Instagram cannot get enough of her content about NICA, her dance academy, and Persian culture.
Niosha's dreams almost ended before they began. In 2002, at the age of 31, she was diagnosed with Non-Hodgkins Lymphoma and given a less than 40% chance of survival. Never one to be afraid of the odds, Niosha rallied her optimism, refusal to quit, and pure grit to recover from this disease. Her family and the Iranian Bay community drew in tight around her, and she miraculously recovered. Niosha and her dream lived on. Not the same as she was before, she was stronger and even more determined to preserve and promote her culture while championing her fellow survivors and becoming a leading fundraiser for the American Cancer Society.
Now, stronger than ever, Niosha creates programming for NICA along with the Niosha Dance Academy. On March 19 and March 20, NICA will present the Story of Nowruz, a 3,000 year-old tradition combining food, wine, art, and nature. Nowruz heralds the Persian New Year and is celebrated by more than 350M people in 17 countries worldwide. The show promotes love and unity through the universal language of movement and music. People from all walks of life are invited to attend live or remotely via livestream.
In this time of war, isolation, and divisiveness, Niosha welcomes the opportunity to share her story, promote unity, and invite others to join a growing community of people from around the globe in embracing a celebration of unity and love.
Comedian Maz Jobrani said about Niosha and NICA, "NICA is doing an incredible job telling the story of Nowruz to all. It's a special time of year celebrated by this very special kind of show."
When Niosha came to the United States as a teenager, she brought her love and talent for dance and innate curiosity to her new home. A dancer since she was two, Niosha remained immersed in her Persian heritage after coming to the U.S. In 1992 she won the Miss Iran pageant in Los Angeles, while completing her degree in psychology at the University of California at Santa Cruz. She went on to found the Niosha Dance Academy, an elite, prolific Iranian dance school, and the Niosha International Conservatory of Arts Foundation (NICA). Niosha lives in the Bay Area with her husband and children, among the community she loves.