New Art, Film, Fashion, Music & Palestine Writes

19 October, 2020


Malu Halasa



Dialogues on the Art of Arab Fashion:
Heavenly Bodies: Modest Fashion Industry 

at the Zay Ini­tia­tive

Tues­day, Octo­ber 20

TIME: 3:00 pm — 4:00 pm GMT +1

Explor­ing new design­ers, trends and devel­op­ments in Islam­ic fash­ion world­wide, Alia Khan from the Islam­ic Fash­ion Design Coun­cil talks with Dr. Reem El Mut­wal­li, who con­tin­ues her “on the sofa” con­ver­sa­tions for the Zay Ini­tia­tive. The Ini­tia­tive’s col­lec­tion of tra­di­tion­al dress­es and his­toric attire, which can be accessed online, comes from rur­al as well as rul­ing fam­i­lies in the U.A.E. and oth­er Mid­dle East­ern coun­tries. On Novem­ber 3, Dr. Mut­wal­li will be joined by Dr. Lina Abi­rafeh from the Arab Insti­tute for Women at the Lebanese Amer­i­can Uni­ver­si­ty for a dis­cus­sion on the art of Arab fash­ion, Arab women and stereo­types (reg­is­tra­tion for the talk TBA). Cospon­sored by the Barakat Trust which sup­ports and pro­motes :the study and preser­va­tion of Islam­ic art, her­itage, archi­tec­ture and cul­ture for future generations.”

Free, click for tickets.

Kinan Abou-afach  – cello |  Shinjoo Cho  – bandoneon & accordion |  Hafez Kotain  – percussion.

Philadelphia’s Al Bustan Seeds of Culture presents Crossing Genres, an online concert

Fri­day, Octo­ber 23
Time: 19:30 – 21:00 EST

After the per­for­mance there will be a con­ver­sa­tion with the artists. 

Kinan Abou-afach is a Syr­i­an-born cel­list and com­pos­er and recip­i­ent of the 2013 Pew Fel­low­ship in the Arts. As a com­pos­er, Abou-afach crafts music that is sat­u­rat­ed with unique scales, rhyth­mic grooves, and impro­vi­sa­tion-esque pro­gres­sions. His works are influ­enced by East­ern and West­ern traditions. 

Shin­joo Cho is a pianist, ban­do­neon­ist, and accor­dion­ist, both a solo and cham­ber musi­cian embody­ing many musi­cal tra­di­tions. She has col­lab­o­rat­ed with inter­na­tion­al musi­cians and artists and has per­formed in pres­ti­gious con­cert halls and the­aters through­out the U.S., Cana­da, her native Korea, and South America. 

Hafez Kotain is a mas­ter per­cus­sion­ist flu­ent in both Arab and Latin rhythms–a flu­en­cy he honed in his native coun­tries of Syr­ia and Venezuela. In 2013 he received a Pew Fel­low­ship in the Arts, a pres­ti­gious award giv­en to Philadel­phia artists of exem­plary tal­ent. Born in Venezuela of Syr­i­an her­itage, he grew up in Syr­ia until the age of 16 years. 

Tick­ets $10, avail­able here.

Curator and Delfina Foundation deputy director Salma Tuqan.

Arts in Isolation Podcasts Season 2 Episode 1:
Cultural Resilience in a Changing World with Salma Tuqan

Pod­cast from Asia House
63 New Cavendish St.
Lon­don W1G 7LP

+44 (0) 20 7307 5454 

Salma Tuqan, the deputy direc­tor of the Del­fi­na Foun­da­tion and a for­mer con­tem­po­rary Mid­dle East cura­tor at the Lon­don’s Vic­to­ria & Albert Muse­um, dis­cuss­es “the chal­lenge of cri­sis” that has his­tor­i­cal­ly faced Mid­dle East­ern artists, and remains with them today. It is a chal­lenge that has tak­en the form of con­flict, occu­pa­tion and war, or, in the case of Beirut’s recent port explo­sion, inep­ti­tude and cor­rup­tion. The pod­cast, which pro­vides an overview of arts and cul­ture in Lebanon, Pales­tine and Jor­dan, is part of the Arts and Learn­ing Series at Asia House. Oth­er online ini­tia­tives from the insti­tute, such as Asia House TV, offer pro­grams, per­for­mances and dis­cus­sions on the arts and beyond.


Nour Mobarak: An Album and Conversation


As the sec­ond coro­na virus wave once again threat­ens the most vul­ner­a­ble, the inter­view with the L.A.-based artist Nour Mobarak and her album, Father Fugues is time­ly. For years the sound and per­for­mance artist has been vis­it­ing her ail­ing father in a nurs­ing home in the moun­tains of Lebanon. Jean Mobarak is a poly­glot with a short-term mem­o­ry that lasts no longer than 30 sec­onds. His daugh­ter record­ed their frag­ment­ed con­ver­sa­tions in Ara­bic, Eng­lish, French and Ital­ian and added impro­vised singing. The album comes with a tran­scrip­tion and trans­la­tion of a libret­to for Father Fugues. Poet­ic and at times strange, it is an encounter that explores mem­o­ry, lan­guage and the human voice across the gen­er­a­tions. On Octo­ber 30, an exclu­sive ses­sion between Nour Mobarak and Berlin-based sound artist and com­pos­er Jes­si­ca Eko­mane will be broad­cast on BBC Radio 3 Late Junc­tion.

Global release of Luxor, a new feature film by Zeina Durra, available in Ireland and the UK from November 6
and in the US from December on Samuel Goldwyn VOD.

 Lux­or, writ­ten and direct­ed by Zeina Dur­ra, struck a chord with UN and oth­er aid orga­ni­za­tions that work on the ground in war-torn coun­tries. Hana, a doc­tor and British aid work­er (played by Andrea Rise­bor­ough) leaves treat­ing the wound­ed on the Syr­i­an-Jor­dan­ian bor­der and goes to Lux­or to recoup. She had lived in the city in her twen­ties, and her med­i­ta­tive walks around mag­nif­i­cent tem­ples and bur­ial cham­bers make the movie per­fect sec­ond-wave lock­down enter­tain­ment. An unex­pect­ed meet­ing with an old beau (played by Lebanese actor Karim Saleh from Rid­ley Scot­t’s King­dom of Heav­en and Steven Spiel­berg’s Munich) adds to Hana’s strug­gle to rec­on­cile the choic­es of the past with the uncer­tain­ty of the present. Film direc­tor Dur­ra, of British/Jordanian and Palestinian/Bosnian descent, spoke about Hana’s trau­ma last month at a UN Assem­bly event in Lon­don. To avoid clichés of exoti­cism and ori­en­tal­ism in her por­tray­al of Lux­or, she includ­ed in the film archae­ol­o­gists who live and work there, like Sal­i­ma Ikran.

MARSM’s Music Elevator podcast, Friday night parties and monthly films


Arabic jazz trumpeter Yazz Ahmed

MARSM, which means “easel” in Ara­bic, hosts a month­ly Music Ele­va­tor pod­cast, along­side Fri­day Night Par­ty Playlists and month­ly fea­tured film dou­ble-bill, all by inde­pen­dent musi­cians and artists from the Ara­bic-speak­ing world. This Music Ele­va­tor, on Octo­ber 21, fea­tures psy­che­del­ic Ara­bic jazz trum­peter Yazz Ahmed on her child­hood in Bahrain; cycling in the desert; and her albums La Sabo­teuse and Poly­hym­nia. The lat­est MARSM Playlist, on YouTube, was curat­ed by Sudanese singer, activist and reluc­tant eth­no­mu­si­col­o­gist Alsarah, who plays Sudanese pop and اغاني البنات  (aghani albanat), which includes folk music made and per­formed by women at wed­dings, social gath­er­ings and cir­cum­ci­sions. Born in Khar­toum, Alsarah is a prac­ti­tion­er of “East-African Retro-Pop” and has released two albums, Silt and Man­ara, with her band, Alsarah and the Nuba­tones. Lat­est pod­cast.

Iranian photographer Newsha Tavakolian.

 Newsha Tavakolian

Art Film


For the State of Calm­ness, by Iran’s best-known pho­tog­ra­ph­er, New­sha Tavako­lian, sheds light on top­ics not usu­al­ly addressed in the wider world, let alone in the Islam­ic Republic—PMS, pre­men­stru­al syn­drome, and PMDD, a more severe, pre­men­stru­al dys­phor­ic dis­or­der. Described in Field Notes, by Tavako­lian’s agency Mag­num, the film is “unnerv­ing, cod­ed, intense, and at times almost spec­tral …” It is nar­rat­ed by Tavako­lian and informed by inter­views she did with more than 100 women. “While the nature of my work is that it often starts out in the per­son­al realm”, she explained, “I always want to con­nect it to the world we are liv­ing in. As I got to under­stand the feel­ing of PMS more, I also found it to be a metaphor for the com­plex times we live in glob­al­ly … Moth­er Earth is on PMS. Being based in Iran, I found that this coun­try too, with all its issues, is suf­fer­ing from PMS.” For the State of Calm­ness opened ear­li­er this month at the Argo Fac­to­ry in Tehran, and will be exhib­it­ed next Jan­u­ary at the Thomas Erben gallery, in New York.



Pages, a bilin­gual Far­si and Eng­lish mag­a­zine, relaunch­es with its issue, Inhale.

The pio­neer­ing arts and archi­tec­ture pub­li­ca­tion was start­ed by Nas­rin Tabatabai and Babak Afras­si­abi in 2004. By the mid 2010s, Pages became a project-led art space. Now the mag­a­zine is again avail­able online. Its debut issue con­fronts a new decade, with per­ti­nent ques­tions:  “Why is it that cer­tain sub­stances insert them­selves more per­ma­nent­ly into his­to­ry than oth­ers? What is this per­sis­tence that they use to per­me­ate his­to­ry and then nev­er let go?” The sub­ject in this case, how­ev­er, is not the top­i­cal virus, but rather opi­um, as is vivid­ly described in arti­cles like “Of Junk and Time: Trau­ma, Habit, Cap­i­tal­ism” by Moham­mad-Ali Rahebi.


Redis­cov­ered dur­ing lockdown:

Seventeen Embroidery Techniques from Palestine: An Instruction Manual


This hands-on man­u­al, in Ara­bic and Eng­lish, cat­a­logs a wide range of tech­niques used in the dress­mak­ing of his­toric Pales­tine, with the aim of reviv­ing stitch­es that have fall­en out of use, such as tahriri (couch­ing) and man­a­jel (bind­ing). Accom­pa­ny­ing the step-by-step illus­tra­tions is back­ground infor­ma­tion on stitch design and usage that were col­lect­ed from old­er, tra­di­tion­al embroi­der­ers in Pales­tine and the dias­po­ra. For Sev­en­teen Embroi­dery Tech­niques from Pales­tine, the fair-trade orga­ni­za­tion Sun­bala worked with co-edi­tor  Omar­Joseph Nass­er-Khoury, a Pales­tin­ian clothes design­er and artist. A crit­i­cal voice on both Pales­tin­ian embroi­dery and Israel, he recent­ly wrote in Coun­ter­punch, “Embroi­dery from Pales­tine has deep, per­son­al, and col­lec­tive roots as well as indi­vid­ual mean­ing that is imbued with explic­it cul­tur­al, polit­i­cal and activist tra­di­tions since 1948.”

Cost: $40.00 (USD)

Palestine Writes Literature Festival


Decem­ber 2–6

The five-day fes­ti­val of vir­tu­al read­ings, talks, per­for­mances and art exhi­bi­tions show­cas­es “liv­ing voic­es cel­e­brat­ing Pales­tin­ian life, devot­ed to the belief that art chal­lenges repres­sion and cre­ates bonds between Pales­tine and the rest of the world.” A wide-rang­ing list of speak­ers, from fic­tion and film to pub­lish­ing to rad­i­cal­ism, includ­ing Mai Mas­ri, Ran­da Jar­rar, Hanan Ashrawi and Angela Davis, among many oth­ers. Poet­ry, music, cook­ing, even net­work­ing are list­ed as events; the specifics of the pro­gramme will be announced in late Novem­ber. Pales­tine Writes Awards will also be giv­en to Arab artists and writ­ers on the occa­sion of the fes­ti­val’s cul­tur­al solidarity.

Free with dona­tion. Reg­is­ter here.

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Malu Halasa is a London-based writer and editor. Her six co-edited anthologies include—Syria Speaks: Art and Culture from the Frontline, with Zaher Omareen; The Secret Life of Syrian Lingerie: Intimacy and Design, with Rana Salam; and the short series: Transit Beirut, with Rosanne Khalaf, and Transit Tehran, with Maziar Bahari. She was managing editor of the Prince Claus Fund Library; a founding editor of Tank Magazine and Editor at Large for Portal 9. As a former freelance journalist in the London, she covered wide-ranging subjects, from water as occupation in Israel/Palestine to Syrian comics during the present-day conflict. Her books, exhibitions and lectures chart a changing Middle East. Malu Halasa’s debut novel, Mother of All Pigs was reviewed by the New York Times as “a microcosmic portrait of … a patriarchal order in slow-motion decline.”