LAAF 2017 Programme


13 July 2017 7pm

Banthology: Literatures from Banned Countries

Bluecoat  |  £5 / £4

In partnership with Comma Press

With Zaher Omareen, Cristina Ali Farah and Al-Saddiq Al-Raddi. 

In January, President Donald Trump signed an executive order halting all refugee admissions for 120 days and temporarily barring entry to the US from seven Muslim-majority countries. Mass protests followed, and the order has since been blocked, revised and challenged by judges, politicians, activists and artists alike.

In association with Comma Press and the Poetry Translation Centre, this event brought together writers from some of the seven banned countries to ask: what good is art in response to such times?

Zaher Omareen and Cristina Ali Farah both read from, and discussed new work specially commissioned for Comma’s forthcoming anthology Banthology, which featured seven stories written directly in response to the travel ban. They were joined by leading Arabic-language poet Al-Saddiq Al-Raddi, who read from A Monkey at the Window, a major new collection that charts his evolution as a poet, from his Sudanese roots to his years of exile in the UK.

Zaher Omareen is a Syrian writer and journalist based in London. He has worked on independent cultural initiatives in Syria and Europe, and co-curated exhibitions on the art of the Syrian uprising. His short stories have appeared in Words Without Borders and the Massachusetts Review among others, and he recently co-edited and contributed to Syria Speaks: Art and Culture from the Frontline (Saqi Books, 2014). He is currently working on a collection of short stories drawn from the collective memories of the 1982 Hama massacre. 

Cristina Ali Farah is a poet, novelist, playwright, and oral performer. She grew up in Mogadishu but fled at the outbreak of the civil war at the age of eighteen. Her short stories and poems have been published in several anthologies and her novel Little Mother (Indiana University Press, 2011) was awarded the prestigious Vittorini Prize. She taught Somali language and culture at Roma Tre University and is currently based in Brussels.

Al-Saddiq Al-Raddi is one of the leading African poets working in Arabic today. He is the author of four volumes of poetry in Arabic starting with Songs of Solitude in 1996. He was a poet in residence at London’s Petrie Museum of Egyptian Archaeology in 2012; his 2015 collection He Tells Tales of Meroe emerged from his time there, and went on to be shortlisted for the Ted Hughes Award. A Monkey at the Window, his latest collection, was published in 2016 as a bilingual publication (Arabic and English) by the Poetry Translation Centre and Bloodaxe Books.

Image: Cristina Ali Farah (top), Al-Saddiq Al-Raddi (bottom left) and Zaher Omareen (bottom right)

Image Credits

Al-Saddiq Al-Raddi – Photography by Crispin Hughes