ARTISTS | IDEAS | NOW is a podcast series talking to Arab artists to hear about their experiences and their cultural and creative identity
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
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.
Watch on YouTube
Liverpool Arab Arts Festival in collaboration with Creative Destruction has produced a series of online conversations titled ARTISTS / IDEAS / NOW. This series is part of LAAF’s four-month festival focused on the climate crisis, and invites leading creatives, activists and thinkers to explore the complexities surrounding the climate emergency.
This conversation looks at the connection between patriarchy and the climate crisis. How is the climate crisis impacting women and people of marginalised genders? Are there feminist solutions to the crisis – perhaps rooted in cultural traditions and practices which have been upended by consumerist habits? How can artists help illuminate the parallels between society’s treatment of women and nature?
Arts Canteen and Liverpool Arab Arts Festival are delighted to open applications for the first edition of Maharat مهارات (Arabic for Skills), our development programme for emerging creative professionals.
The programme is designed to offer an introduction for people of Arab origin to working in the creative industries, including music, film, events, performing arts and festivals. We will give five ambitious, curious, and emerging creative professionals from Arab backgrounds, who are based in England, the opportunity to develop their craft and professionalism. Participants will make vital new professional connections through tailored mentorship and training. It will serve as a key moment in helping kick-start their careers in the creative industries.
The programme will take place in two parts:
- a series of 5 online seminars, panel discussions, and workshops that brings some of the most influential industry experts that Arts Canteen and Liverpool Arab Arts Festival invites based on the needs of the five selected creative practitioners
- 2 mentorship sessions from other industry professionals, based on the practitioners’ needs and areas of interest
The programme will run over five months between August and December 2021 and take place online via Zoom for the group sessions.
1-2-1 sessions will either take place online or in person, dependent on location of the mentor and participant and current Covid-19 guidance. All the sessions will be run by Arab creative professionals based in both the UK and overseas.
To be considered for the scheme, applicants must be based in England and be of Arab origin, with less than two years experience of working in the creative industries.
Successful applicants will receive an honorarium of £50 per session (£350 in total).
In order to apply, please complete this application form before 19 July 2021.
Maharat is kindly supported by Arts Council England and DCMS as part of the Culture Recovery Fund.
Liverpool Arab Arts Festival (LAAF), the UK’s longest running festival of Arab arts and culture, returns in July 2021 for its 23rd edition. The multi-artform programme of live and online events is an artist-led response to the complexities of the climate emergency in the Middle East and North African (MENA) region today.
The first wave of festival events encompasses July and August, with events for September, October and November being released later in the year. LAAF’s launch programme features the world premiere of Eating The Copper Apple by poet lisa luxx; Grounds for Concern, a new installation by visual artist Jessica El Mal; Trauma Then, Trauma Now by Youcef Hadjazi at the Royal Standard; the premiere of Blue Spaces by music collective هيHeya; the return of the ARTISTS | IDEAS | NOW series of talks, as well as a new film programme running throughout the festival.
Our Women on the Ground: Essays by Arab Women Reporting from the Arab World is a panel of leading female journalists featured in the book. LAAF has commissioned the first episode of a new podcast What Happened in Baghdad by Kamel Saeed, which presents a fascinating audio journey of discovery into the creatives that once called the Iraqi capital home.
Key projects later in the festival include an ambitious new LAAF commission, 22, which will bring together 22 Arab artists, activists and creatives from across the MENA region nations to create an artistic anthology in response to the climate emergency. Threads is a new multidisciplinary performance and digital work bringing together three Arab women artists – Omeima Mudawi-Rowlings, Alia Alzougbi and Rihab Azar – as they weave together stories of migration, disability and the passage of time.
The dire impact of the climate crisis is already being disproportionately felt in the MENA region, an area which has faced unprecedented climatic events in recent years. Scorching temperatures, rising sea levels and dwindling natural resources increasingly threaten a region already confronting the continuing realities of conflict and colonialism. From performance to visual art, LAAF 2021 will provide a platform to express the lived experiences of those often excluded from climate conversations, while addressing interconnected issues such as imperialism, climate justice and capitalism.
Jack Welsh, Festival Programme Manager, said: “Across four months, our programme will engage, inform and creatively reimagine our future direction with respect to the climate emergency. Artists and performers from across the Arab world will ask what the international community can learn from those who are already stepping up to respond to the crisis on their doorstep? How can we establish a collective approach to dealing with this enormous challenge?”
Founded in 1998, Liverpool Arab Arts Festival takes place each year in leading arts and cultural venues across Liverpool. This year’s programme will include a mix of physical and online events, continuing LAAF’s mission to celebrate the best in Arab arts and culture, while connecting physical audiences in Liverpool with digital audiences around the world.
In response to the global COVID-19 pandemic, the 2021 festival is for the first time expanding from its usual two-week period to a longer festival, spanning almost four months from July to November. Further events for autumn will be announced later this summer.
We’re delighted to be hosting Sylvia and Zayd for Parent and Baby Dabke.
It’s free and will be held via Zoom. Anyone who wants to attend will have to sign up beforehand.
Come have fun and learn some basic Dabke steps for you and your little one. Whether you’re a parent or carer, it’s a perfect activity to do together, to get active, learn a new skill or just burn a little energy on a Saturday morning.
Dabke is a traditional Palestinian folkloric dance. This digital workshop will teach you some basic steps, and have a little fun. It’s designed especially for little ones and their parents, so no dance experience is required.
All ages welcome including sling babies.
Read more and sign up for the event here.