February - Gently Easing Us Out of the January Blues...

Although it is the shortest month of the year, February gently eases us out of the January blues and signals the return to a fuller and busier schedule of artistic and cultural activity in London. So that hibernating at home and complaining about the cold and darkness of winter are simply not an option and going out is the new in!

For the culturally avid Arab-Londoner and the Arab-curious, there is plenty coming up with a great selection of events to choose from. Below are just some highlights of the exhibitions and the theatre taking place this February, whilst the rest of entries- including the music, workshops, festivals and comedy - can be found on My Curious Inbox page that is updated regularly to bring you the latest finds.

Theatre Fans Will Want To Know About

Burkas And Bacon Butties: Based on writer Shamia Chalabi’s real life experiences, this is a heart-warming comedy charting a father-daughter relationship over the course of a year. Ashraf is an Egyptian, a Muslim and a taxi driver and Shazia is his half-Egyptian, half-Wigan, twenty-something daughter. Through multiple journeys in Ashraf’s taxi, it explores the nuances of a mixed-culture family in contemporary Britain – the secrets kept and the stories told, and ask whether, despite the differences, family can win out regardless of the bacon butties. Taking place 14-18 February at The Vaults, Leake Street, Waterloo, SE1 7NN. 

For more: https://vaultfestival.com/whats-on/burkas-and-bacon-butties/

Returning To Haifa: Based on the classic novella by Ghassan Kanafani, adapted for the stage by Naomi Wallace and Ismail Khalidi and directed by Caitlin McLeod. A compelling story of two families – one Palestinian, one Israeli – who are forced by history into an intimacy they didn't choose. Set in the aftermath of the 1967 Six Day War, the Palestinian couple - who fled their home in 1948 - return to Haifa after 20 years of being away. Although prepared to find someone else living where they once did, nothing could have prepared them for the encounter they both desired and dreaded: the son they had to leave behind, and what he has become. Taking place 27 February-24 March at the Finborough Theatre, 118 Finborough Road, London SW10 9ED​.

For more: http://www.finboroughtheatre.co.uk/productions/2018/returning-to-haifa.php

Bismillah! (An ISIS Tragicomedy): A second staging of Matthew Greenhough’s show which enjoyed a critically acclaimed premiere run at the 2015 Edinburgh Fringe Festival. It brings Dean, who joined the army, and Danny, who joined the Islamic State. Bismillah! is their time together in a basement in northern Iraq as hostage and guard. Exploring the strange new reality of youth in modern day Britain, this unique tragicomedy of our time examines social alienation, radicalisation, disenfranchisement and the rock band Queen. Taking place 28 February-4 March at The Vaults, Leake Street, Waterloo, SE1 7NN.

For more: https://vaultfestival.com/whats-on/bismillah-an-isis-tragicomedy/

Exhibition Lovers Might Like to Attend

Yto Barrada at the Barbican: A major London commission, the Moroccan artist weaves together personal narratives and political ideals to create a complex portrait of the city of Agadir and its people in a state of transition. The sweeping form of the Curve at the Barbican will be transformed with a dramatic installation – encompassing a mural, film commission, sculptures, and a series of live and recorded performances – ​to consider how a city and its people might address the process of reinvention following disaster.

For more: https://www.barbican.org.uk/whats-on/2018/event/yto-barrada-agadir

Ala Younis at the Delfina Foundation: A solo exhibition that will be held simultaneously in London and Dubai. It includes a major new commissioned installation 'Plan (fem.) for Greater Baghdad', that builds on Younis's previous work that was featured in the Central Exhibition of the 56th Venice Biennale. The artist here brings to the fore the significant contributions made by female artists, architects and other influential characters - including Balkis Sharara, Nuha al-Radi, Fahrelnissa Zeid, Iman Mersal and Zaha Hadid -​ to the development of Baghdad and its modern monuments. 

For more: http://delfinafoundation.com/whats-on/ala-younis-plan-for-feminist-great...

Basma Alsharif at the Mosaic Rooms: The first UK solo exhibition for the artist and film-maker, it features three key works from different periods of the artist’s practice. L.A. based and of Palestinian descent, Alsharif explores representations of history, conflict and subjectivity and how to produce new visual narratives. She also creates rich imagery, manipulating and editing original film footage, seeking to unsettle perceptions and evoke affective experiences in the viewer. A central work will be 'Ouroboros' which is Alsharif’s first feature length film. 

For more: http://mosaicrooms.org/event/basma-alsharif/

Nahla Ink Artist of the Month - Rasha Amin from Egypt

As I come across so many wonderful artists in my line of work, this year I have decided to feature the name and the works of one visual artist per month on Nahla Ink, to share with my readers the great pool of contemporary talent when it comes to Arab and MENA-inspired creatives out there - some who are working from inside the MENA region and others who are based outside of it. 

For this month, I have selected three images by the Egyptian artist Rasha Amin, whose artwork I came across last year when she participated in the 'Pop Art from North Africa' exhibition at the P21 Gallery in London. With her kind permission, the images are from her 'Folklore' series.

For more on the artist: http://www.rashaamin.com
On Instagram and Facebook: Visual Artist Rasha Amin

My Twitter @Nahlaink

If you wish to be in the super know of all Arab-inspired arts and culture news, you can also follow me on Twitter, where I post more often than the monthly editorial note and where I am more visibly connected to the hundreds of other active handles who also cover and rotate in the same blogosphere.

Follow me here: https://twitter.com/NahlaInk

Best wishes to all!

Nahla Al-Ageli
Freelance Journalist + Blogger
London, February 2018