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.