Category: Projects

“The very end of my fingertips,
the ones most sensitive,
feel their way, with absent eyes,
to touch the tip of a thread”

Threads brings together three Arab women artists from Syria, Lebanon and Sudan, weaving a story of migration, songs of the Earth, of disability and the passage of time.

In a journey through storytelling, music, and visual poetry they explore how, while the rich tapestry of our lives may be different, a thread runs through them to bring together a sisterly home that is unbound and timeless.

Inspired by the nomadic Bedouin, one of the many indigenous communities in the Arab world who continue to be marginalised through aggressive, extractive ‘development’ practices, Threads brings together the impact of time, culture and migration in a scripted spoken word, accessible performance, with music and a mixed media installation.

Storytelling is performed by Alia Alzougbi and accompanied by original and adapted music performed by Rihab Azar on the Oud. The focal point of the installation is a sculptural work that brings numerous threads, made up of a vast range of colours, and created by Omeima Mudawi-Rowlings.

Part of Liverpool Arab Arts Festival, Threads is a research and development project.

Threads is commissioned by Liverpool Arab Arts Festival, with support from DaDa, funded by Arts Council England and Liverpool City Council.

Watch the trailer for Threads

Artist Biographies

Alia Alzougbi

Alia is a BAFTA-nominated performance storyteller, educator, and cultural producer.

Her grounding in Social Anthropology, Applied Theatre and Development Education compels her to find ways of subverting dominant narratives. Alia’s work resonates with principles of social and environmental justice, activism, and equity as complex processes within deeply interconnected systems. Her practice in the community amplifies lesser-heard stories through co-produced creative outlets.

Alia has recently been appointed joint CEO of Shubbak Festival in London. Since 2017, Alia has been chairing the National Theatre’s ‘We Need to Talk…’ sessions. In 2019, Alia was awarded the Writers’ Guild Olwen Wymark Award for supporting new writing. She is a proud Associate of Khayaal Theatre Company.

Alia is a recent Clore Fellow, a highly sought-after programme that seeks to develop the next generation of leaders in the cultural industries. She is also a fellow of the Royal Society of Arts.

www.aliaalzougbi.com

Omeima Mudawi-Rowlings

Omeima is a British-Sudanese combined textile artist, Crafts Maker and Independent Curator who has exhibited both nationally and internationally and received the runner-up prize for the Arab British Centre Award for Culture 2019 (individual award).

In 2018 Omeima was commissioned by Artichoke to work with local communities in Brighton bringing deaf and hearing women together to create a banner that took part in the PROCESSIONS event to mark the centenary of women’s right to vote in the UK. This culminated in the publishing of a book titled Women Making History.

Omeima is a 2019/20 Clore Cultural Leadership Fellow, Creative Consultant, Deaf and Hard of Hearing Accessibility Consultant and Trainer and a leader in creating Deaf and Hearing integrated activities that promotes both equity and professional development opportunities.

www.omeima-arts.com

Rihab Azar

Syrian oud player, graduate of the conservatoire of Damascus (2014). Recognised by Arts Council England as a musician with Exceptional Promise (2016). MA in Music Education, UCL (2018) and a Chevening scholar (2015).

Rihab was the first woman oud soloist to perform accompanied by the Syrian National Orchestra for Arabic Music (2014).

Strongly influenced by Arabic music, as well as frequently collaborating with musicians, ensembles and orchestras with different genre focuses, Rihab has played, arranged and written music for projects involving story telling, visual arts, tv programmes, radio and theatre plays.

www.rihabazar.co.uk

Nadia Nadarajah

Nadia trained at International Visual Theatre (Paris). Her theatre credits include: Midnight Movie (Royal Court); A Christmas Carol (Bristol Old Vic); Hamlet and As You Like It (Shakespeare’s Globe); The Unheard World (Arlington Artist Centre, Newbury); Our Town (Royal Exchange, Manchester); Can I Start Again Please (UK Tour); Notre Dame (National Theatre); Grounded (Deafinitely Theatre at Park Theatre); A Midsummer Night’s Dream (Shakespeare’s Globe); Windibops (UK Tour); Tyrannosaurus Drip (Stratford Circus); Love’s Labour’s Lost (Shakespeare’s Globe); Tanika’s Journey and Invisible (Deafninitely Theatre); Girls and Dolls (Southwark Playhouse); and I Believe in Unicorns and We’re Going On A Bear Hunt (Little Angel Theatre).

Other credits include: Scrooge (D-Live!); Sonnet 18 (Short Film); Legacy of Dot (Television); Diana and the Gods from Galatea (R&D); Extraordinary Wall of Silence (R&D); Sonnet 30 (Short Film); Margaret Ashman Gallery (Still Photography); The Hub (Television); BSL Zone Showcase (Internet); Snapshot Dicing with Sex (Documentary); All Day (Short Film) and Wicked series 2 & 3 (Television).

Credits

Artist collaboration:

Omeima Mudawi-Rowlings – Textile/Combined Artist, Textile Installation and Designer
Alia Alzougbi – Storytelling, Writer and Performer
Rihab Azar – Music Adaptation and Composition
Nadia Nadarajah – Creative Performer

Production Team:

Louise Stern – BSL/Creative Consultant
Ben Glover – Creative Captions and Video Designer
Liv McCafferty – Producer
Jon Stonehouse – Filmmaker and Editor
Liam – Video Cameraperson and Editor
Joe Strickland – Digital Producer, DaDaFest
Grace Ng – Joint Artistic Director and CEO, DaDaFest
Nickie Miles-Wildin – Joint Artistic Director and CEO, DaDaFest
Robert Hack – Bluecoat Technician
Jack Welsh – Festival Manager, LAAF
Laura Marie Brown – Creative Producer, LAAF

Textile Installation / Light lanterns:

Mathew Jones – Graphic Design for Layout Images for Screen Printing
Martin Glover – BSL Consultant Design/Architect for Lanterns
Richard Woolf – Talbot Designs Ltd for Lanterns
Ihitashri Shandilya  – Collect Scarf and Jewellery from India
Khaleb Brooks – Set Manager
Naomi Da – Creative Production
Jane Sampson – Inkspot Presss for Images on Screens
Plants and Foliage – Roots Houseplants

Volunteer assistant for Textile Printing/Seamstress:

Pavreen Dunn – Seamstress/Cutting Pattern
Katy Scase – Assistant
Kimberley Swan – Assistant
Sergo Terekhov – Assistant
LilyNile Mudawi-Rowlings – Assistant
Jeff Rowlings – Assistant

Interpreters:

Tracey Tyler
Kim Wyer
Nikki Harries
Pascale Maroney
Jill Blackadder
Sue MacLaine

Header image is by Omeima Mudawi-Rowlings

             

Kamel Saeed, an emerging UK-based Iraqi creative, presents a fascinating audio journey of discovery into the creatives that once called the Iraqi capital home. This new podcast series is being exclusively launched as part of Liverpool Arab Arts Festival 2021.

With guests including artists, writers and scholars, Saeed offers listeners a glimpse into an extraordinarily rich period of world history by exploring the lives of just a few of the creatives that have played a part in the story of Baghdad – and continue to do so to this day.

Said to have been crushed to death by a collapsing pile of books, Al Jahiz (776-868) was an Iraqi bibliomaniac, eccentric, and prolific writer of some 260 books. His magnum opus, Kitāb al-Ḥayawān (كتاب الحيوان) ‘Book of Living Things’ is an unusual encyclopaedia, largely unknown in the West, illustrating and describing over 350 species of animals. His distinct style of prose ‘magnified the trivial so that it became important and diminished the important so that it became trivial’. Over a millennia later, his work is still enjoyed across the Arab-speaking world.

This episode of What Happened in Baghdad is commissioned by Liverpool Arab Arts Festival and co-produced with the Whitworth, The University of Manchester. The series is made possible with funding from Arts Council England.

Illustration: Noura Andrea Nassar

Future episodes

Episode Two: Abu Nuwas

‘Pour me seven, back to back’ and ‘There’s no surgeon like the glass’ aren’t exactly titles to poems you’d expect from an Arab poet. Then again, Abu Nuwas wasn’t your average poet. The Arab-Persian Abu Nuwas (756-814) is one of the most divisive yet irrefutably gifted Arabic poets. Having mastered and advanced every genre of contemporary poetry, he went on to pioneer five more. A libidinous hedonist and an alcoholic with an obsession with wine, a fifth of his whole poetic output is dedicated in praise.

Illustration: Noura Andrea Nassar

Episode Three: Al Maarri 

The blind Arab poet, philosopher and writer Al Maarri (973-1057) was a vegan before it was cool. An outlier, he held other unorthodox views for his time: he was irreligious, a rationalist and a pessimist. His poems are at once beautifully lyrical and philosophically profound. Testimony to the universal appeal of his work, his influence spans continents: a translated copy of his poetry was found in Franz Kafka’s library, and he was one of Khalil Gibran’s dearest poets.


About the presenter

Kamel Saeed was born in Baghdad in 1997 and was educated there until the age of 9, when his family fled war in 2006. After arriving in the UK, he learned English and completed his primary and secondary education. He went on to study English Literature, graduating in 2018. Since then, he has interned at English Heritage and The Collection Museum, Lincoln, and has been consulted on diversity and inclusion within the cultural sector. What Happened in Baghdad evolved out of independent research he has undertaken into early Islamic civilisation and draws on his own Iraqi and Arab heritage.

About the guests

Hanouf Al-Alawi works at the British Museum leading a national programme that co-curates youth cultural projects. Before joining the British Museum, she worked at the Natural History Museum as a Learning Volunteer Engagement Manager, recruiting and training diverse volunteers who deliver engaging and inspiring object-based learning to children, youth, and adults. Prior to this, she worked at Kew Gardens as an Education Officer, managing a pioneering project that co-curated with pupils and their families, school museums that represented the pupils cultural diversity. Before moving to the UK, she worked in the Middle East developing and delivering pioneering projects that improved access to and quality of education for children and youth.

James E. Montgomery is Sir Thomas Adams’s Professor of Arabic, Fellow of Trinity Hall, at the University of Cambridge, and an Executive Editor of the Library of Arabic Literature. His latest publications are Loss Sings (2018), a collaboration with the Scottish artist Alison Watt, ‘Antarah ibn Shaddād: War Songs (2018) – and a translation – with Sophia Vasalou, and The Philosopher Responds: An Intellectual Correspondence from the Tenth Century (2021). His translation of Ibn al-Muqaffa’s Kalīlah and Dimnah: Fables of Virtue and Vice, with Michael Fishbein, will be published this autumn.

Bryony Dunne is an Irish artist and filmmaker based in Athens, who traces the overlaps between documentary film, cinema, photography and the natural world. She develops research-driven projects to explore the power dynamics and fantasies of control that humanity projects on to nonhuman others and nature; oftentimes, she uses fact-based fictions and hypothetical futures to build these interconnected narratives.