Written by William Dobson
With the combination of the Nour Festival of Arts and the BFI London Film Festival, mixed in with a large selection of other great exhibitions and talks, this is one of the busiest weeks we can remember for Middle Eastern cultural events in our nations capital. Make sure you free up some space! There’s too much going on to miss out…
Monday 8th October
Nour Festival of Arts – Various locations around London
The Festival is back for a third time this year, in a bigger and better guise. Running until the end of December, it will feature dazzling contemporary artistic talent from the Middle East and North Africa. Including everything from c contemporary art, design, film, music and literature, it’s sure to be one of the Middle Eastern cultural events of the year!
There is far too much going on to list here. However, among the brilliant events scheduled for this year’s edition, the Festival has noted a number of highlights which are expected to stand out in particular. For one, the festival’s Writer-in-Residence, Selma Debbagh, will host a series of workshops on writing and publishing. Additionally, Tunisian singer-songwriter Emel Mathlouthi and Lebanese musician Charbel Rouhana will play a series of concerts at the Tabernacle, and festival goers can view a graphic and spatial design exhibition by Muiz Anwar and Dia Batal at the Leighton House Museum, as well as Moroccan artist Abderrahim Yamou’s first-ever UK exhibition at the Mosaic Rooms. Furthermore, the V&A Museum will host a group photography exhibition entitled Light from the Middle East, and in association with the London MENA Film Festival, screenings of films from emerging Middle Eastern and North African filmmakers will be shown at the Leighton House Museum.
Tuesday 9th October
Made in Makkah® – Artspace Gallery, London
In collaboration with the Jeddah-based Athr Gallery and curated by Raneem Farsi and Aya Alireza, Made in Makkah® will show the works of three Saudi artists from the Holy City of Makkah: Nasser Al-Salem, Noha Al-Sharif, and Saddek Wasil.
Through mixed media, calligraphy and sculpture, Made in Makkah® demonstrates how being born and raised in this spiritual magnet has shaped the artists’ worldviews and how the devotional nature of their work can appeal to a universal spirit of belief.
Made in Makkah® opens a window into the elusive world of Islam. However, the true message conveyed by these three artists is much more universal – a belief in something greater than oneself. The exhibition, which opened last week will run until October 27th.
For more details, click here
Wednesday 10th October
Communicating About Syria - Frontline Club, London
Join The Frontline Club to discuss the humanitarian efforts being made in Syria and the many challenges that are faced. How do journalists and humanitarian agencies share information in such a complex conflict situation? We will analyse the balance between openness and the ability to continue to provide vital assistance on the ground in a conflict such as that in Syria.
For more details, see here
Thursday 11th October
Wadjda – Vue West End, Leicester Square, London
Screening as part of the BFI London Film Festival, this is the charming tale of a young Saudi girl who will stop at nothing to earn enough money to buy the bicycle she craves.
To shoot a film on location in a country where cinemas themselves have been banned for over thirty years is some kind achievement for any director. When that filmmaker also happens to be a woman, in a country where it is illegal for women to drive let alone direct, makes Haifaa Al Mansour’s accomplishment with her debut feature Wadjda all the more impressive. It is just as well then that Al Mansour’s story of a precocious young Saudi girl from a lower-middle-class family in capital city Riyadh is a beautifully-made, heartfelt gem. Offering audiences a rare glimpse into everyday Saudi society, Al Mansour confirms herself as a major new Arab filmmaking talent to watch. Ali Jaafar.
For more details, click here
The Repentant – Various London cinemas
Another film being shown as part of BFI London Film Festival, The Repentant is a hauntingly powerful tale of a reformed Algerian fundamentalist attempting to reintegrate into society only to find some secrets impossible to hide.
Algerian director Merzak Allouache delves deep into his country’s tortured soul with this powerful look at the lingering effects of extremism and civil conflict. During the 1990s, Algeria suffered a civil war between the government and Islamic fundamentalists that left tens of thousands of people dead. As part of a deal to end the violence, the Algerian government offered amnesty to any jihadists who would come down from their mountain hideouts, renounce violence and re-integrate themselves into everyday society. One such ‘repentant’ is Rachid who, with the help of a kindly police officer, finds a job in a cafe. Then he meets an embittered local pharmacist, paving the way for the disclosure of secrets that have the potential to tear them apart, and leading to an emotionally devastating finale that audiences will find unforgettable.
For more information, see here
Media and Artistic Practices in the Middle East and North Africa - Iniva at Rivington Place, London
The lecture-performance Aida, Save Me explores the urgency and constraints that emerge in the use of imagery within the context of the Middle East today. In April 2006, during the Beirut premiere of Hadjithomas and Joreige’s second feature film A Perfect Day, an extraordinary incident not only disrupted the film’s release but continues to resonate throughout their work. A series of disappearances followed and the lecture-performance measures the distance between recognition and representation, and in turn recounts an adventure whereby fiction takes on the appearance of a document.
Given current events in the Middle East and North Africa surrounding the use and abuse of images and their circulation, this lecture-performance engages with historical trauma and its discursive production and transmutation within a given social, aesthetic and political order.
For more details, see here
#COMETOGETHER – Old Truman Brewery, Brick Lane, London
#COMETOGETHER represents Edge of Arabia’s return to London and most ambitious exhibition to date, showcasing large-scale, multi-media work by leading Arab and Islamic World artists in the heart of creative, multicultural East London. It will feature over 25 established and emerging artists that go beyond the periphery of the Gulf to Algeria, Iraq, Iran, Kuwait, Lebanon, Morocco, Pakistan, Palestine, Saudi Arabia, Tunisia, United Arab Emirates, and Yemen.
The title of the exhibition, #COMETOGETHER, is a deliberate reference to social networking channels, which have transformed the nature and power of individual voices and expression in the Arab World in recent years. The exhibition will incorporate raw film footage, live internet-based installations, a library tent and platforms for performance and interventions, reflecting the unconventional contemporary art language being embraced by the new generation in the Arab world.
While it opened last Sunday and will continue until 28th October, today represents an opportunity to attend workshops, topical discussions, film screenings and guided exhibition tours.
Friday 12th October
Park Night: Tarek Atoui – Serpentine Gallery, London
For his Park Night, and opening event for Serpentine Gallery’s three-day Memory Marathon, which takes place during Frieze Art Fair Week, acclaimed Lebanese sound artist Tarek Atoui performs La Suite, a five-hour work inspired by classical Arab music. This Sharjah Art Foundation commission is presented by the Serpentine Gallery.
Exploring Tarab, both as a traditional form of music and an Arabic word to describe the emotional effect music has on the listener, Atoui is inviting fourteen internationally renowned musicians – from hip-hop and electronica performers to contemporary and traditional instrumentalists – to create a dialogue with the collection of Kamal Kassar’s AMAR Foundation which houses the largest library of Tarab and classical Arab music in the world. Atoui has long been captivated by the improvisation inherent in this deeply evocative music, which binds the audience to the performer. As Atoui says “Tarab is not a music genre but a state of ‘melotrance’ that you reach after being exposed to music for a certain amount of time.” Conceived as a series of performances, the audience is welcome any time throughout the duration of the evening.
For further details, see here
Saturday 13th October
In Aid of Syria - Christ Church Spitalfields, London
The Choir of the 21st Century will be giving a concert which contains the British première of part of Kareem Roustom’s oratorio The Son of Man, based on a text by Kahlil Gibran.
The concert, which also contains works by Bach and Haydn, features the Junior Academy Symphony Orchestra (RAM). This is particularly appropriate because the conductor for the evening is Howard Williams, who is also one of the founders of the Syrian National Children and Youth Orchestra. Indeed, it is his involvement with young music makers in Syria that has prompted Howard to mount this concert. All proceeds will be going to the British Red Cross Syria Crisis Appeal, which concentrates its efforts on supporting the many thousands of Syrian refugees.
For more information, see here
Sunday 14th October
Zaytoun – Various cinemas, London
Another film that is part of the BFI London Film Festival, from award-winning Israeli director Eran Riklis, Zaytoun is the story of Yoni and Fahed, two exiles from a divided land.
Yoni, an Israeli pilot, crash-lands in war-torn Beirut in the run-up to Israel’s ill-fated invasion of the country in 1982. He is captured by a group of fighters from the Palestine Liberation Organisation, one of whom is Fahed, a young orphan and refugee, who longs to return to his family’s home. Yoni and Fahed soon find themselves on the run from rival militias as their unlikeliest of friendships begins to take root in the most extreme of circumstances. Israeli director Eran Riklis (The Syrian Bride; The Lemon Tree) avoids sentimental clichés thanks to a wonderful performance from Abdallah El Akal as the wise-beyond-his-years Fahed and some sweeping cinematography that will remind viewers of the irony – and tragedy – that such a beautiful land can be the theatre of such horrific conflict.
For details, see here