June Note: In Search of Arab London + Print Isn’t Dead! + Calligraphic Rhythms + Shubbak Festival + Tribute to Rim Banna + More!

Dear Readers

June has arrived and is set to be a very busy month for the ‘Arab About London’ arts and culture calendar.

Below are some highlights to share and other Nahla Ink news.

In Search of Arab London: A Design Conversation (6 June)

Presented by the Arab British Centre (ABC) and Barakat Trust in collaboration with the London Festival of Architecture 2019, this special event will see London designers from the Arab world and those working with the Arab world share experiences of melding ideas between the Middle East and Britain; and, also, considering what it means to develop a multifaceted design identity in a quasi-global world.

The panel of designers includes: May Fawzy (Interior Architect and Director of MF Studio); Hedayat Islam (Principle Interior Designer and Founder of Jam Space); and Randa Hanna (Architect and Founding Partner of Map Projects). They will be discussing their own experience and design influences on everything from ‘parklets’ in London to fabrics, homeware and commercial interiors.

For more information: https://www.arabbritishcentre.org.uk/whatson/in-search-of-arab-london-a-design-conversation/

Print Isn’t Dead: Al Hudood Newspaper Launch (18 June)

The Al Hudood newspaper will be launching its very first printed edition. An independent hard-hitting Middle Eastern focused satirical publication run by creatives and journalists, Al Hudood has been online for six years already. The evening will see a presentation by founder Isam Uraiqat, in addition to featuring a stunning 45-minute musical performance by Jowan Safadi.

Safadi is a multi-genre musician, singer and songwriter who has become celebrated for his iconic strand of sarcastic protest songs which give his work a rare and revealing edge. Along with his band, they will be performing songs from the new album as well as his classics in a wide range of styles combined under the title ‘Free Arabic Rock’.

Bassem Youssef, the Godfather of modern age satire from Egypt, will also be in attendance, making a sharp 15 minute appearance to tickle funny bones. Youssef has become one of the most influential and poignant satirists and political commentators from the Middle East. Dubbed the Jon Stewart of the Arab world, his witty commentary and famous satirical news TV show El Bernameg has spread far beyond his home country of Egypt.

For more information: https://richmix.org.uk/events/print-isnt-dead-al-hudood-newspaper-launch/

Calligraphic Rhythms: Master Calligrapher Mouneer Al Shaarani (30 May-27 June)

Following fabulous success in Paris and Berlin, Stories Art Gallery is hosting in London ‘Calligraphic Rhythms’, a critically acclaimed exhibition showcasing the work of the Syrian master calligrapher and designer Mouneer Al Shaarani.

Living and working in Damascus, Al Shaarani started Arabic calligraphy at the tender age of ten, under the tutelage of the great Syrian calligrapher Badawi Al Dirany. After graduating from the Faculty of Fine Arts in Damascus in 1977, his work has been exhibited internationally in the Middle East, Europe and the USA.

Al Shaarani is highly regarded for his original style of modernising ancient fonts and creating completely new ones, but never losing sight of the traditional form from which this ancient art-form can trace back its historical roots. His innovation in introducing worlds of wisdom from the Quran and Hadith, alongside aphorisms and proverbs relative to our contemporary modern life style, creates both a visual and intellectual joy for lovers of Arabic calligraphy.

For more information: https://www.storiesartgallery.co.uk/

Shubbak Festival 2019 (28 June-14 July)

One of the most anticipated events of every other year is the Shubbak Festival. Now in its fifth edition, Shubbak is London’s largest biennial festival of contemporary Arab arts and culture. Founded in 2011 by the Mayor of London, it is now an independent charity and continues to connect London audiences and communities with the best of what the Arab world has to offer through an ambitious programme of premieres and commissions of visual arts, film, music, theatre, dance, literature and debate.

For more information: https://www.shubbak.co.uk/

A Tribute to Rim Banna & Concert Celebrating Her Musical Legacy at Barbican (9 July)

MARSM shares a tribute to the late Palestinian singer Rim Banna and looks forward to the concert that will commemorate her rich musical legacy.

In a collaboration between MARSM, Shubbak Festival and Barbican, the concert on 9 July will bring four of Banna’s closest musical peers who will celebrate her life and work, as well as creating a repertoire of music composed especially for the occasion. The four musicians: Faraj Suleiman (Palestine), Tania Saleh (Lebanon), Bu Kolthoum (Syria) and Sabrine Janhani (Tunis).

For the MARSM article: https://nahlaink.com/the-trace-of-the-butterfly-a-tribute-to-rim-banna-concert-to-celebrate-her-musical-legacy-at-the-barbican/

Nahla Ink Artist of the Month: Ghassan Ismail

This month Nahla Ink features with kind permission the paintings of Syrian artist Ghassan Ismail.

The pieces form a series entitled ‘The Lost & The Unlost’ in which the artist expresses with painted letters the destruction of homes, culture and records due to war. Due to the conflict in Syria, he himself lost all of his archives, paintings and photo albums when his house was looted in 2013. He has expressed: “I don’t know how to express myself well in words but I do in painted letters. What has been lost is lost and what remains is the desire to live and the gratitude for loved ones being safe and sound.”

Born in 1978 in Deir ez-Zor, Syria, Ismail was first introduced to calligraphy by his father and growing up, he further developed his skills and was influenced by known calligraphers, among them Jamil Al Bayram. Having attended the Fine and Applied Arts Institute and Adham Ismail Center for Fine Arts in Damascus, he went on to participate in several exhibitions in the Arab world, among them Letter & Color (2014) and ‘The Pioneers of the East’ (2015) organised by The Arab Cultural Club and UNESCO respectively. In 2011 at the outset of the Syrian conflict, he left his home and is currently based in Beirut where he teaches shorts courses in calligraphy.

For more information on FB: https://www.facebook.com/GHASSANISMAIL.ART/

For more information on Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/ghassan_ismail_artii/

‘Arab About London’ Events Listing, Nahla Ink Twitter + Facebook Page

For the full ‘Arab About London’ listing that is regularly updated with MENA-inspired events, you can find it on Nahla Ink: https://nahlaink.com/

To be in the super know, you can also follow me on Twitter @NahlaInk or on Facebook:  https://www.facebook.com/NahlaInk/

Best wishes to all!

Nahla Al-Ageli
Freelance Journalist + Blogger
London, June 2019

The Trace Of The Butterfly: A Tribute To Rim Banna & Concert To Celebrate Her Musical Legacy At The Barbican

Guest Post: MARSM*

A pivotal and influential figure in the contemporary Palestinian music scene, Rim Banna’s life was tragically cut short on 24 March 2018 after a ten-year struggle with breast cancer. She left behind a rich legacy of twelve albums, combining her own compositions and the careful assembling of traditional songs, children’s lullabies and works of Palestinian poets.

Brave and courageous to the end, her last work was materialised as a tapestry of voices and music over visual materials from her x-ray scans. Now a unique commemoration concert debuts at the Barbican in London by some of her closest musical peers: Tania Saleh (Lebanon) Faraj Suleiman (Palestine), Bu Kolthoum (Syria) and Sabrine Janhani (Tunis).

Born in December 1966 and raised in Nazareth, Banna studied music in Moscow and returned to Palestine to immerse herself in the events unfolding on the ground. She became a key performer in numerous local, regional and international festivals and an adamant artist within the Palestinian struggle. She was one of the first Palestinian musicians to document children’s music and lullabies, taking them from the confines of family homes to the outside world with three albums.

She also wove the poetry of giants such as Mahmoud Darwish, Tawfiq Zayyad and Samih El-Qasem into her songs, blending pop, poetry and traditional Arabic sounds. Significantly, Banna became a voice for peace and equality, collaborating with the likes of jazz pianist Bugge Wesseltoft, Norwegian choir Skruk and Arabic electronica collective Checkpoint 303. Her last album ‘Voices of Resistance’ was a conceptual piece of art uniting her spirit of resistance, poetry and medical scans with Checkpoint 303’s electronic beats and Bugge Wesseltoft’s edgy piano improvisations.

The collaboration between MARSM, Shubbak Festival and the Barbican will bring together the exceptional group of musicians who were Banna’s contemporaries to pay tribute to her life and work as well as creating a repertoire of music composed by Palestinian pianist Faraj Suleiman. Suleiman is one of the most promising musicians of the Arab world, whose music is strongly influenced by Arabic and Eastern melodies and rhythms as well as Tango and Jazz traditions, incorporating their unique scales and modalities in his compositions.

Accompanying him on the night will be the stellar contemporary alternative Lebanese singer, songwriter and visual artist Tania Saleh, whose lyrics mirror the reality of the Lebanese-Arab social and political turmoil. Since her early debut in 1990, she has experimented with various genres and is always challenging herself to explore new styles. Her collaborations have been eclectic: Ziad Rahbany, Toufic Farroukh, Issam Hajali, Charbel Rouhana, Ibrahim Maalouf, Rayess Bek, Khaled Mouzannar, RZA, Nile Rodgers, Charlotte Caffey, Tarek El Nasser, Natacha Atlas and more.

Additional features come from two artists from Syria and Tunis. The infamous rapper, music producer and film director who has been revolutionizing political rap in the Middle East is Bu Kolthoum. He will be making his much anticipated London appearance. Born in Damascus to a family of Sufi background, his 2017 album Bo’Bo’ was completely produced, mixed and mastered by him. His sound can easily be distinguished amongst other Middle Eastern rappers given old-school sound accompanied by prominent bass-lines.

The group is made complete with the gentle voice of former Yüma duo Sabrine Jenhani. Originally a fine artist and painter, Jenhani graduated from the School of Fine Arts in Tunis, but discovered her passion for singing and writing, moving into jazz singing at famous clubs in Tunis. She imbibed her inspiration from her work in the Tunisian capital while exploring the underground scene. She went on to become an icon of music through her first project in the group Yüma. Jenhani today composes her own music and writes her lyrics, releasing her latest project ’ZAY’ in January 2019.

The four musicians have been working, creating and arranging for months under the lead of composer Faraj Suleiman to bring this project together and to raise awareness to the life of one of Palestine’s most prominent musical figures. Banna was always a lighthouse in the turbulent seas of political uncertainties in Palestine and still inspires generations of artists and activists to resist oppression and fight for what is close to the heart. This night calls for the attendance of every soul that stands for justice, equality and the right to live.

‘The Trace of the Butterfly’ concert takes place on 9 July at the Barbican.

For more information to book tickets: https://www.barbican.org.uk/whats-on/2019/event/the-trace-of-the-butterfly-a-tribute-to-rim-banna

* MARSM UK: Since its founding, Marsm has dedicated itself to producing events that promote the rich and diverse arts and culture of the Arab world across the UK. From hosting some of the biggest names in the Middle East to emboldening burgeoning underground music scenes, it strives to support the exceptional creativity and talent of artists across the region.

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