Arab Women Artists Now

Celebrating its sixth year, Arab Women Artists Now (AWAN) festival, which runs from the 5 -29 March, offers a rich programme of visual art, music, theatre, comedy, spoken word, panel discussions and workshops by contemporary Arab women artists.  Venues across London include Rich Mix, The Arab British Centre, The Book Club and the Queen of Hoxton.

The festival aims to increase understanding around Arab women’s diverse realities and concerns, while providing a more nuanced narrative surrounding the Arab region and its peoples.

Coinciding with International Women’s Day on March 8, Aser El Saqqa, Founder and Director of AWAN festival, said: “I cannot think of a better way to celebrate International Women’s Day than by bringing together such a diverse range of artists and sharing their worlds, their experiences and their wonderful talent with new audiences.”

Launching on Thursday 5 March at the Rich Mix in East London, with a new exhibition "Imagining Afrabia” by Sudanese British artist/designer Rayan ElNayal. In this exhibition she explores Sudanese and Afro-Arab design, architecture and history through a unique magical realist perspective journeying through time and space to uncover long lost cities. ElNayal’s work is heavily influenced by the novel ‘Season of Migration to the North’ by the great Sudanese writer Tayeb Salith and the works of Sudanese artist, Ibrahim El Salahi, founder of the Khartoum School.

Rich Mix will also host a day long event bringing exploratory panel discussions, films and other presentations and performances, including the world  premiere of   Another Lover’s Discourse by multi-disciplinary artist Riham Isaac, combining satire, grotesque, songs and comedy, this inventive new multimedia work from one of Palestine’s most exciting contemporary artists invites us to think differently about love. Isaac is a lecturer at Bethlehem University and founder of Art Salon which I an independent art space in the old city of Beit-Sahour. In 2017 she co-directed ‘The Alternativity’ with Danny Boyle and Banksy.

Performances include Salut Copain  performed by  Belgian Algerian Dounia Mahammed who uses language as a medium in which to philosophise, dream, draw, hesitate and question on stage. Inspired by the work of Russian avant-garde poet Daniil Charms and writer Paul Auster, among others, she creates a virtuoso solo on identity and difference. Dounia's work is intended to tell us something about mankind and being human, and swings from wonder to despair.  

Musical highlights include a concert by acclaimed Moroccan singer/songwriter OUM performing songs from her new album "Daba” (which means “now”) released in August 2019 OUM, considered an ambassador for Moroccan culture, fuses soul, jazz and Afrobeat with a multitude of Moroccan flavours such as Sahrwi, Gnawa and Hassani from the Sahara.

Formed in Malmö 2008, Tarabband is a six member group featuring some of Sweden's most skilled folk & world musicians. The group is led by the charismatic Iraqi Egyptian singer Nadin Al Khalihi, who fled war in Iraq to Sweden in 2001. Her music and lyrics narrates her journey of survival, exile, life and rebirth merging political and social topics along with questions of identity, survival and love. Weaving the personal elements into the songs allows Nadin to share stories of war in a way that is relevant with the current challenges young people are facing in the Middle East

Arabs are Not Funny is widely regarded as one of the hottest comedy nights among the Arab community and beyond. Comedians with roots in the Arab world attempt to prove the naysayers wrong!  Featuring Lebanese British Isabelle Farah, Tunisian Swiss Leila Ladari, Moroccan Laila Alj, Bahraini British Jenna Al Ansari and Belgian Tunisian Serine Ayari.

Sunday 8th March is AWAN film day. Films include ‘The Man Behind The Microphone’ by British Tunisian film director Claire Belhassine. This moving portrait of Hedi Jouini, the godfather of Tunisian music goes beyond the realm of straight music documentary; it is also a portrait of Tunisian history over the past century. A panel discussion about film with the organisers of Antwerp’s Mona Film Festival, (Middle East and North Africa), offers an opportunity to talk about the  nuanced picture of the cultural, political, social and artistic situation in the MENA region. Through films and documentaries, MONA contributes to an open, new take on the region and a more balanced view of the Amazigh, Arab, Turkish, Kurdish and Iranian world and diaspora.

Across the globe, popular uprisings are uniting people calling for reform and change. With borders being broken by a common thread of justice, how do we find individual voices that bring us altogether? At the Book Club in Shoreditch, Young Shubbak , a new collective of 16-25 year old artists, curators, producers and creatives present a night of eruptive and moving spoken word along with short films from Lebanon, Syria, Palestine, Egypt and more, reflecting on the intimate moments of resistance within a time of great revolution.  Founded in 2011 Shubbak is Europe’s largest biennial festival of contemporary Arab culture.

 Further programme information will be announced over the next few weeks.

 Information on the programme:

 AWAN is produced by Arts Canteen and supported by Arts Council England.


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