By John Radcliff
“Art is the window to man’s soul. Without it, he would never be able to see beyond his immediate world; nor could the world see the man within,” said Claudia Johnson, professor of English Literature at Princeton.
Such sentiment has been illustrated at Shubbak (Arabic for ‘window’), London’s first ever celebration of contemporary art and culture from across the Arab world which kicked off on July 4 and concludes on 24.
“We want to look beyond the stereotypes and understand a region that is diverse and dynamic in arts, culture, ideas and belief. Shubbak provides a ‘window’ through which to see the extraordinary breadth and excitement of contemporary Arab arts, building on a powerful sense of connection and respect,” Said Boris Johnson, the mayor of London.
The festival encompasses visual arts, film, music, architecture, dance, literature and forums for discussion hosted by artists from all around the region attending to the perceptions of shifting social and political landscape of the Arab World.
“The festival features over 70 events in venues across the city. There is a real sense of excitement and collaboration amongst artists and I believe the festival will demonstrate the power of culture to bring people together,” said Munira Mirza, advisor for Arts and Culture to the Mayor.
Shubbak has offered performances and displays by a number of Egyptian artists including the opening concert of the festival by Egyptian singer Maryam Saleh as well as other performances from folk troupe El Tanbora, celebrated chanteuse Azza Balbaa, award-winning oud player Mustafa Said and singer Ramy Essam.
In addition to Egypt’s musical presence, MICA, Europe’s first gallery specializing in modern Islamic and contemporary art, has been influential in affording many Egyptian artists the opportunity to present their work at Shubbak. Most notably, the gallery hosts “From Facebook to Nassbook,” (‘Nass’ Arabic for people), an exhibition of nine contemporary Egyptian artists that include Khaled Hafez, Adel El Siwi and Mansoora Ayub. The artwork depicts the time of Egypt’s internet blackout that briefly altered the entire sphere of communication in the country.
“‘From Facebook to Nassbook’ captures the spirit of pre and post-revolution Egypt while also reflecting the movement behind the Arab Spring. It has been hugely successful and we hope to tour this exhibition in Europe, the Mena region and in particular, Egypt,” said Reedah El-Saie, director of MICA.
More information about “Shubbak” available at www.london.gov.uk/shubbak