Ten years after the Arab Spring Shubbak, London’s biennial festival of contemporary Arab culture, returns with an ambitious programme reflecting on people, connections and ideas in a fundamentally unsettled world.

The sixth edition of the Shubbak Festival: A Window on Contemporary Arab Culture runs from 20th June – 17th July, 2021. Born out of the rupture across Arab countries ten years ago, Shubbak 2021 returns with an ambitious programme that connects audiences and communities with the best of contemporary Arab visual arts, film, music, theatre, dance, literature and debate.

Virtually all the work in the festival is brand-new – commissioned or conceived especially for this year’s conditions. From outdoor audio-guided theatre, UK music and spoken word talent in intimate surroundings and new collaborations and installations in iconic locations and local neighbourhoods uncovering subtle histories and personal memories. In a year when international work has been in short supply Shubbak welcomes performers from Palestine, Berlin and Lebanon.

Shubbak 2021 celebrates the creativity and voices of Arab artists and takes you right into the heart of cultural expression in the Arab world and its diaspora. With a wide range of performance venues in London and an extensive network of international locations from Slemani to Casablanca, from Cairo to Riyadh, this year’s festival programme transcends the borders of all our previous editions. The festival is a place of discovery, meetings, calls to action as well as contemplation. As our world opens up again post-pandemic, Shubbak offers opportunities to reconnect, share and explore our new local and global realities.” Artistic Director, Eckhard Thiemann

Venues for 2021 include Chelsea Physic Garden, Barbican, British Museum, Toynbee Studios, King’s Place, the Jazz Café and Mosaic Rooms, while the digital programme will feature a theatre premiere performed by Syrian actors in Germany, events livestreamed globally from Beirut, Gaza, Marrakech, Slemani, Riyadh, Khartoum and Doha, a film introducing the burgeoning Hip Hop scene in The Gulf, dance from Ramallah and four DJ/VJ artists sharing sets from Casablanca, Tunis, Cairo and Algiers.

For 2021 Shubbak has partnered with other UK organisations, including Glasgow-based Dardishi, an organisation that showcases Arab and North African women’s contributions to contemporary art and culture, and also with The SAFAR Film Festival, the only festival in the UK dedicated to cinema from the Arab world.

Shubbak commissions for 2021 include:

  • Every Act of Recognition Alters What Survives from Rand Abdul Jabbar, a multi-disciplinary artist born in Baghdad. At Chelsea Physic Garden.
  • The Land’s Heart is Greater Than Its Map, an audio-theatre co-presentation with the Barbican.
  • UK premiere of The Return of Danton, performed by Collective Ma’louba, a Syrian, Arabic-speaking theatre collective based in Germany.
  • The Gulf Hip Hop scene explored in It Ain't Where You From a film by Dubai based filmmaker Philip Jamal Rachid (aka Soultrotter).
  • The Synaptik & Felukah, two of the most sought after Hip Hop, rap and trap talents, collaborating on stage in London for the first time. In partnership with MARSM.
  • Image & Movement Our Cup is Broken is a bold and visceral piece of livestreamed dance from Riyadh-based choreographer and dancer Sarah Brahim.
  • The Sounds of Syria, new specially commissioned instrumental arrangements performed by The London Syrian Ensemble. Co-presented with MARSM at King’s Place.
  • Sawa, Sawa, a digital space featuring the work of 14 selected 18-26 year old South West Asian and North African (SWANA) artists based in the UK commissioned by Young Shubbak.
  • Bringing Images Home, four poets from Slemani (Sulaymaniyah), a city in the east of the Kurdistan Region of Iraq designated a UNESCO City of Literature in 2019.

Shubbak is working with its venue partners to ensure all social distancing measures are met and that relevant risk assessments have been done. Shubbak will be operating under up-to-date government guidelines on all physical events.

"Coinciding with its 10 year anniversary, Shubbak 2021 is both the culmination of 10 years of artistic innovation as well as a brave and inspiring response to a radically disruptive year that has forced artists and curators to think of new ways of collaborating, creating and presenting art. While the festival will retain its roots and a physical presence in London it will, for the first time in its history, be open to a global audience through a series of online and international initiatives.  I am incredibly excited for this year's festival, and proud of the team and artists that have worked so hard to bring it to life." Shadia El Dardiry, Chair of the Shubbak Board of Trustees (Solicitor, Bates Wells Braithwaite)

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