Da The Arab Weekly del 14 maggio 2023
Quest’estate torna la settima edizione dello Shubbak Festival di Londra che celebrerà ancora una volta l’arte e la cultura araba contemporanea. La data inaugurale sarà il 23 giugno e sono attesi circa 80 spettacoli a Londra e in tutto il Regno Unito.
SHUBBAK, THE UK’S LARGEST CELEBRATION OF ARAB ARTS RETURNS
This summer London’s seventh Shubbak Festival will once again celebrate contemporary Arab arts and cultures.
The 16 day event opens on June 23, with some 80 shows in London and across the UK.
The festival is promising “a dynamic and multi-disciplinary programme … representing Arab, South West Asian, and North African cultures. This year’s festival will see popular favourites, emerging artists, and highly anticipated UK debuts and world premieres.
“Showcasing an ambitious and vibrant line-up of performance, visual art, comedy, dance, film, literature, and talks and workshops, Shubbak Festival will champion artists and their crafts as they confront the urgent environmental and social issues of today”.
“Shubbak is so much more than a festival” explained Alia Alzougbi and Taghrid Choucair Vizoso, the joint organisers and first all female team to run the show.
“It is a home away from home for our artists and communities, our joyful resistance and respite from the times we live in, and our pride to continue in the breath of our ancestors’ wisdom yet to sing in our own tongues our reverence for the land.
“It is also the courage to discard that which does not serve us, humanity and the earth, to confront with honesty the messiness that crouches in the deep seat of our shared experience. Bringing together an incredible line-up of individual creatives and collective works in one celebration of Arab arts and cultures to share with wider communities, we are beyond elated for this year’s festival.”
This year’s events will kick off with the group exhibition ‘Totalitarian Props’ at The Africa Centre, exploring the use of political props as modalities of control in Afro-Arab nations, before embarking on a weekend take-over at the National Theatre’s River Stage Festival. There, say the organisers, will be staged “an unmissable ceremony of international arts and culture for all ages and co-presented with Bagri Foundation, this free event will offer an abundance of family fun, live music and late night entertainment.”
Shubbak also presents Lebanese-American musician and activist Hamed Sinno for his first public performance since heading up the most prominent indie-rock band of the Arab world, Mashrou’ Leila.
“A key figure in representational politics, free speech and sexual freedoms in the Middle East” said the organisers, “Sinno is at the forefront of conversations addressing social and political discourse. In a musical composition co-commissioned by Shubbak and the Barbican, Sinno’s intimate and honest piece ‘Poems of Consumption’ explores the resonances between Amazon-era consumerism, mental illness, unrequited love and environmental collapse in a captivating musical composition.”
The festival’s music line-up also includes legendary Tunisian songstress Ghalia Benali in a live concert and another UK debut, Bahiyya, a rapturous revival of revolutionary Egyptian musicians.
Meanwhile ‘Love & Revenge’ will present an ode to Arab cinema’s golden age whilst a night of Arab techno and old-time classics curated by Young Shubbak alumna is celebrated in ‘When the Night Speaks’. This event precedes the grounding invitation to walk along London’s Hackney Marshes to explore the dialogue between us and the land in ‘When the Land Speaks’.
Marking her debut performance in the UK, rebellious Lebanese activist and the first openly queer comedian in the region, Shaden presents ‘All Hell Broke Loose’, one of Shubbak’s exclusively Arabic-spoken events. The festival explained: “Embodying satire to comment on toxic masculinity and her relationship with God, Shaden continues to pave a way for artistic freedom despite having been summoned by the military court for her criticism of the political class.”
Another comedy highlight in the festival not only represents female voices in the male-dominated sector, but also platforms disabled creatives. Blind artist Sharihan Hadweh teams up with comedian and actress Manal Awad (Huda’s Salon, Hany Abu-Assad; Dégradé, Arab Nasser, Tarzan Nasser), to create Double Bill: ‘No Cheri/Mia Chara’, a back-to-back comedy set from two Palestinian voices with Soho Theatre. With “biting and cynical humour”, this show champions fearless women in stand-up comedy.
Further highlights for female work also include an all-female group with their UK premiere of ‘Woman at Point Zero’, an operatic reinterpretation of feminist Nawal El Saadawi’s novel, at the Royal Opera House. Multi-disciplinary performance piece Dreamer will present a semi-autobiographical tale of three black women in Arab society, whilst a staged reading of ‘Chambers of the Heart’ confronts the love, desire and memory of four women with stories spanning the East and West.
Showcasing the unconventional performance pieces that Shubbak platforms, Mohamed Toukabri presents ‘The Power (of) The Fragile’. Inviting his mother to join him on stage, Toukabri blurs the lines between artist and non-artist as his mother’s untold narrative unfolds in a piece of performance art.
Poet lisa luxx and composer Jasmin Kent Rodgman collaborate in a ground-breaking immersive call for climate justice with their promenade installation highlighting human displacement.
‘What The Dog Said To The Harvest’ draws on opera, dance, spoken word, binaural sound and film, whilst ‘Bad Diaspora Poems’ debuts the new collection from young Poet Laureate Momtaza Mehri, which combines her own family history with the history of many others to speak for those who have been left behind.
From a retrospective look at the histories of others to the present digital age, one of the Arab world’s leading contemporary dramatists and directors Sulayman Al Bassam (‘The Al-Hamlet Summit’, ‘Richard III: an Arab Tragedy’) returns to London with the UK Premiere of award-winning text ‘I M E D E A’. This reimagining of the Greek myth of Medea explores the eroding infrastructures of truth in a digital world and lies midway between a live rock concert and performance event. Further investigation into the evolution of sounds and music is also offered in the powerful two-night event, ‘Sonic Frontiers’, which captures and reflects on our changing times.
Presenting the festival’s first live interactive piece between two cities, ‘The Legitimated Body and Navigated Listener’ opens a sonic dialogue between artists from their home city of Slemani and the participating audience. As well as the geographical, Shubbak presents additional boundary-breaking works in Mona Kareem’s “fiercely unapologetic” new book of poems offering a dynamic bilingual reading, presented for the first time beside an English translation, in ‘I Will Not Fold These Maps’.
Shubbak will platform Palestinian narratives, with highlights including one of the UK’s leading writers, Palestinian-Irish playwright Hannah Khalil and her evolutionary play ‘Trouf: Scenes from 75* Years’. Palestinian choreographer and performer Samaa Wakim embodies the trauma of war in ‘Losing It’ by Samar Haddad King, a solo dance piece.
For the visual art enthusiasts, the festival offers multiple shows, from an investigation into the cross-pollination of coastal cultures in ‘Two Seas’ to the intricate practice of Arabic calligraphy in ‘Sound & Silence’. The multidisciplinary exhibition ‘I’d search forever, I want to remember’ questions if matter and place remember in the same way our bodies do, featuring movements of the English Channel and demolished buildings.
Shubbak celebrates the lives and narratives that exist amongst all Arab communities, with Elias Matar’s ‘Olive Jar’, developed from nearly a year of local community workshops, exploring the rich heritage from Syria, Iraq, Palestine, Lebanon, Morocco and beyond. Thrilling action will take to the streets with parkour and circus comedy show Taroo, an ambitious fusion of acrobatics, Chinese pole and urban movement that tells the stories from streets all over the world.
Expanding its horizons, festival events can be found across the UK as well as online, with exhibitions and touring performances heading to Greater Manchester, Devon, Liverpool and Bradford’s Literature Festival. Partnering also with the UK’s largest festival of Arab cinema, SAFAR Film Festival 2023, ‘A Journey Through Space and Time’ will screen across nine different cities.