Karim Skalli

Shubbak Festival 2015: A window on contemporary Arab culture

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'Calligraffiti’ by artist eL Seed Badke KVS. Photo © Danny Willems Michel Khleifi

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Shubbak Festival 2015: A window on contemporary Arab culture

Shubbak Festival is London's largest biennial festival of contemporary Arab culture and it connects the capital's audiences and communities with the best of contemporary Arab culture through ambitious festival programmes of premieres and commissions of visual arts, film, music, theatre, dance, literature, architecture and debate.

Highlights of the 16-day festival include: 

  • Key strand of the visual arts offering is Art in the Public Realm, including sound-art installations, sculpture and street art, and the first ever UK mural by ‘calligraffiti’ artist eL Seed
  • Music highlights include the festival’s opening concert at Barbican Centre featuring a host of celebrated Arab musicians, including Karima Skalli and the Asil Ensemble, and world premiere of scenes from Cities of Salt, the forthcoming opera by Syrian composer Zaid Jabri at the Royal Opera House, based on the classic titular novel
  • A weekend of literature and storytelling at the British Library courtesy of some of the Arab world’s most acclaimed writers
  • Arab theatre in London showcased by works at four of the city’s most innovative venues: the Arcola, Bush, Young Vic and Cockpit Theatres
  • Badke, a collaboration between Belgian choreographers and Palestinian dancers, inspired by Dabke, the popular Palestinian folk dance
  • Film programme curated by noted Palestinian director Michel Khleifi.

Festival Chair Omar Al-Qattan said: "Shubbak may today have become the world’s premier festival of contemporary Arab culture, with the widest scope, freedom and variety. This is partly a result of the great turmoil and tragedy that has engulfed parts of the region since 2011.

"But London has often played host to cultural diasporas. What would our city’s culture look like without the contributions of writers, artists and musicians who sought refuge here over the centuries, or simply came in search of greater opportunity or freedom?"

"Shubbak is just such a modest home for artists from the Arab world, so they may to continue to enrich our city and help us understand their world with greater lucidity and deeper empathy," he added.

Artistic Director Eckhard Thieman and Festival Director Daniel Gorman jointly said: "We and our many partners are immensely proud to present over 100 international artists as well as over 30 artists based in the UK.

"Their voices may be personal and reflective, or loud and provocative, celebratory or inquisitive, but what unites them is that they make us think afresh and see the world differently."

They added: "Never before has the Arab world been more reported on in the media.

"Now is the time to hear from Arab artists who speak powerfully about what matters to them. Most of the works have never been seen in London before, so join us and dare to discover the new and unpredictable."

Shubbak Festival runs between 11 - 26 July. Check out the full programme here.

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