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A passionate art lover finds herself in good company at Stanford

This story is the second in a series of profiles on Stanford’s 2021-22 transfer students. The unique cohort of more than 60 undergraduates, who range in age from 18 to 51, brings a multitude of perspectives and life experiences to campus.

(Image credit: Andrew Brodhead)

As the students enrolled in the art history course “Prints, Propaganda, Protest” discussed The Rhinoceros, a celebrated 16th-century woodcut by Albrecht Dürer, the conversation turned to his decision to produce a fantastical image of an animal he had never seen – an artistic choice that would shape public perception of rhinos for more than two centuries.

It was a spirited exchange that lasted well past the end of the three-hour seminar, said Halima Ibrahim, who joined Stanford as a sophomore during autumn quarter after earning a degree in studio art at a community college in Rhode Island.

“The part of our discussion that was super compelling to me was when we started debating the importance of accuracy to a European audience that had never seen a rhino before,” she said. “Was it going to change their lives to know what a rhino actually looked like? If the answer is no, then does it matter that Dürer exaggerated the anatomy?”

Ibrahim, who is majoring in art history, said it was incredible to be surrounded for the first time by people who share her passion.

“Those are the kinds of spaces and those are the kinds of moments I look forward to each week,” she said.

Inspired by the elaborate graffiti and murals she has seen during trips to visit family living in Cairo, Ibrahim plans to focus her studies on the art produced in Egypt in the decade since the Arab Spring uprising of 2011.

Her favorite place to do her art history reading is Cantor Arts Center – its indoor and outdoor spaces. To study Arabic, she finds a quiet spot in Green Library.

“I plan to do my master’s degree in Cairo, either at the American University of Cairo or Cairo University,” she said. “I want to be fluent in the language so I can take classes in Arabic.”

At Stanford, she will continue writing poetry – Ibrahim was the 2020 Youth Poetry Ambassador for Rhode Island – as a member of the Stanford Spoken Word Collective, a student group that performs at campus events and as the university’s Slam Poetry Team.

“Poetry is a big thing for me,” Ibrahim said. “I’m still writing poetry. I’m always writing poetry.”