Liverpool Arab Arts Festival announces first events for 2019

Liverpool Arab Arts Festival (LAAF) has announced its first wave of events for the 2019 festival, under the theme “Shadow and Light”. “Shadow and Light” reaches to the heart of how the story of Arab art and culture is told. Inspired by the UK premiere of Beau Beausoleil’s reaffirming exhibition Shadow and Light, which LAAF brings to the Baltic Triangle’s Northern Lights hub (6 – 14 July), the theme addresses how society must reflect on all aspects of lived experience to explore where we are.

The festival opens on Friday 5 July with the UK premiere performance of Juliana Yazbeck’s debut record SUNGOD in the Royal Court Studio. Born in the USA to Lebanese parents, Juliana draws on her mixed cultural upbringing to create her signature sound and will entrance audiences with her unlikely but mesmerising fusion of spoken word, otherworldly electronics, and haunting Levantine vocals.

Also announced for Liverpool Arab Art Festival’s 2019 music programme is The Trace of the Butterfly, a tribute to renowned Palestinian singer and activist, Rim Banna, who passed away in 2018 after a decade-long battle with breast cancer.

Produced by MARSM UK, the uplifting celebration of Banna’s life will include performances from Arab musicians including Tania Saleh, the Lebanese artist, singer and songwriter, Faraj Suleiman, Palestinian pianist, composer and leader of the Faraj Suleiman Quartet, Syrian MC and hip hop producer, Bu Kolthoum and Tunisian singer songwriter and composer, Sabrine Jenhani, with more artists still to be announced.

Unity Theatre will also play host to two LAAF events during this year’s edition, theatre performance, Chronicles of Majnun Layla and Yara Boustany’s dance spectaculars, ēvolvō and One Day and One Night Beirut.

Chronicles of Majnun Layla (7 July), produced by Shubbak in partnership with the Bagri Foundation, is Bahraini poet Qassim Haddad’s powerful rendering of the classic love story of Majnun Layla, often described as the Arab Romeo and Juliet.

The story of love, passion, eroticism and unfulfilled desire has been transformed into a bilingual live experience by renowned Palestinian actor and writer, Amer Hlehel, and radically reinterpreted with an original, contemporary soundscore and live performance by Rihab Azar and Kareem Samara on acoustic and electric oud.

LAAF will also bring renowned Lebanese visual artist and performer, Yara Boustany, to Unity Theatre to perform two of her works, produced by Shubbak, in one special show (11 July). The complex and magical ēvolvō follows a journey from idyllic nature in the mountains of Lebanon, to the busy street-life of Beirut, while One Day and One Night Beirut is reflects everyday life in Beirut, depicting 24 hours from sleep to wake – a journey from dreaming to reality.

Shadow and Light is a collaborative project honouring the lives of more than 400 Iraqi academics killed in targeted assassinations between 2003 and 2012 on university campuses, in the street and even at their homes.

Instigated by Beausoleil, founder of the Al-Mutanabbi Street Starts Here project, Shadow and Light showcases creative the photographic and written responses from a range of international artists, writers, poets, activists and teachers, including Merseyside-based participants.

The exhibition will also feature ephemera and the list of murdered academics, seeking to both honour and memorialise them, and reaffirm the importance of pedagogy and freedom. Families will be invited contribute to create unique work of art and remembrance in response to the exhibition on Thursday 11th July, at a bookmark making workshop led by artist-printmaker Catherine Cartwright and poet/book-artist Ama Bolton.

Speaking of the announcements and festival theme, Liverpool Arab Arts Festival Chair, Mustapha Koriba, says: “This year’s theme “Shadow and Light” invites us to reflect on the Arab lived experience and how arts and culture can be a powerful tool to help us navigate the paths between all aspects of it.

“So often Arab culture is presented in rigid ways, dominated by a single narrative, traditionally one of war, struggle or dispute. We continue to address this narrow perspective and instead find inspiration in the rich tapestry of Arab culture and the joy that new connections and exchanges of ideas can bring.”

The festival will close on Sunday 14 July, with its ever-popular finale celebration at Sefton Park Palm House, Family Day supported by Qatar Foundation International.

Each year, LAAF attracts tens of thousands of people from Liverpool and beyond, for a thrilling showcase of the richness of Arab culture, with a packed programme of visual art, music, dance, film, theatre, literature and special events taking place in venues across the city.

Liverpool Arab Arts Festival is supported by Arts Council England and Liverpool City Council.

For more information and to book tickets visit