World Picks: April — May 2021

18 April, 2021

Got an event, book, film, con­fer­ence or any­thing else you’d like to rec­om­mend? Drop us a line.
All list­ings are online, unless oth­er­wise noted.

19 April (MON) 23:59 BST | 18:59 EST | 15:59 PST | ON MARSM Documentary “Slingshot Hip Hop” Directed by Jacqueline Reem Salloum featuring the pioneers of Palestinian hip hop


Catch this archival film before it’s too late. Sling­shot Hip Hop (2008), direct­ed by Jacque­line Reem Sal­loum, charts the birth of Pales­tin­ian hip hop inside Israel and the Occu­pied Ter­ri­to­ries. At the begin­ning of the film, the group DAM, who record­ed the catchy polit­i­cal anthem “Meen Erhabi” (Who’s the Ter­ror­ist?), has a pho­to op with Pub­lic Ene­my’s Chuck D. The trio from Lyd­da, plays its first ille­gal gig across the Green Line in the Deheishe Refugee Camp, and helps two young res­i­dents there, Bilal and Rami, write and per­form a rap about a mar­tyred friend. A few months lat­er DAM phones Bilal in prison, after he and Rami were arrest­ed for throw­ing stones. The pow­er of rap to trans­form lives clear­ly did­n’t worked for them; but for oth­ers it remains a pow­er­ful impe­tus, despite seem­ing­ly insur­mount­able dif­fi­cul­ties. Tal­ent­ed young female vocal­ist Abeer Alz­i­naty con­tin­ues record­ing despite being not being able to sing onstage because of the threats her par­ents received. Extend­ed fam­i­ly mem­bers object­ed to a female cousin per­form­ing in public.


Rap is the music of lived expe­ri­ence and the pol­i­tics of occu­pa­tion are at the core of Pales­tin­ian rhymes. Rap­pers reveal the lim­its on their free­dom of move­ment when the cam­era fol­lows them on walks through their neigh­bor­hoods, where Arab schools and libraries are turned into Israeli police sta­tions. In Gaza, Mohammed al-Far­ra and mem­bers of the rap group PR spend end­less hours try­ing to get through check­points. Mah­moud Sha­l­abi strolls the ancient, cov­ered streets of Akka. But once he goes to Tel Aviv and is over­heard speak­ing Ara­bic, he is stopped and ques­tioned by the Israeli police. These young artic­u­late voic­es from ten years ago make you won­der where they are now.


Jacque­line Reem Sal­loum direct­ed Plan­et of the Arabs in 2005. She is an artist, and her most recent work for A Sym­bol of Lost Home­land cel­e­brates the life and work of Taw­fiq Canaan, the Pales­tin­ian physi­cian, oral his­to­ri­an and collector. 

Listen to MARSM mixtapes for free on  SoundCloud .


Show­cas­ing an eclec­tic selec­tion of music arranged in sequences of unfore­seen son­ic analo­gies, this col­lec­tive mix was put togeth­er by Bas­ma, who is of Nubian Sudanese descent and is based in Lon­don. She hosts the Khar­toum Arrivals show on NTS Radio where she likes to tap into mem­o­ries tied to old Sudanese love songs.

About the mix: This mix fea­tures pop­u­lar and folk music from around Sudan, with sounds from Hal­fa, Kas­sala, Blue Nile, Dar­fur and Khartoum.


MARSM’s Month­ly Mix­tapes bring a curat­ed selec­tion of music from some of the most influ­en­tial audio­philes, col­lec­tives, DJs, musi­cians, and pro­duc­ers of the Ara­bic-speak­ing world. Tune in for some rare musi­cal gems, mas­ter­ful­ly com­piled for you into one con­tin­u­ous play.

Podcast SEARCHING FOR MINARETS IN THE MOUNTAINS WITH THARIK HUSSAIN, from The Arts in Isolation series at Asia House’s Converging Paths 2021

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In 2019, Oxford Uni­ver­si­ty request­ed that its his­to­ry dons and stu­dents join the British Mus­lim trav­el writer and broad­cast­er Tharik Hus­sain on Britain’s Mus­lim Her­itage Trail No. 2, a walk and lec­ture he gives in Brook­wood Ceme­tery, in Sur­rey. It was the final rest­ing place of sev­er­al kings of Yemen, a Sul­tan of Oman, the last Ottoman princess, along with famous Eng­lish trans­la­tors of the Quran and British roy­als who con­vert­ed to Islam. Hus­sain’s his­toric trails, in the words of the uni­ver­si­ty’s let­ter, “have the capac­i­ty to decol­o­nize the main­stream his­tor­i­cal nar­ra­tive of Britain.” 

As Hus­sain explains to Seif El Rashi­di from the Barakat Trust, “No one was telling me these sto­ries, as a Mus­lim in Europe, no one was telling me my stories.” 

In the tra­di­tion of Ibn Bat­tuta, Hus­sain’s lat­est book Minarets in the Moun­tains: A Jour­ney through Mus­lim Europe fol­lows in the foot­steps of sev­en­teenth cen­tu­ry Ottoman explor­er and pop­u­lar writer Evliya Çelebi. Hus­sain trav­eled through such coun­tries as Ser­bia and Bosnia-Herze­gov­ina, among oth­ers, with his wife and young daugh­ter. El Rashi­di is an archi­tec­tur­al his­to­ri­an, with an inter­est in cul­tur­al preser­va­tion. He and Hus­sain explore the dif­fer­ences between 600 year-old Islam­ic com­mu­ni­ties in the for­mer Yugoslavia, which sur­vived bru­tal war, and Britain’s own mul­ti­eth­nic Islam­ic heritage.



“My answer to this ques­tion can be best illus­trat­ed with anoth­er story…
The Ori­ent. The Mid­dle East. The Arab World. 
First-Gen­er­a­tion. Third Cul­ture. Immigrant. 
Ter­ror­ists. Refugees. Veiled women and men with long beards.
What does ‘Arab’ bring to mind …”

Fast paced, sur­pris­ing and pos­ing more ques­tions than answers, the short art film mosa­ic فسيفساء com­bines inter­views, crowd-sourced imagery and ver­ba­tim audio with archival black-and-white twen­ti­eth-cen­tu­ry colo­nial­ist footage. In a rich bar­rage of words, voic­es and some­times self-shot footage, young peo­ple from SWANA+ (South-West Asia and North Africa), at home and in the dias­po­ra, tell of their dif­fer­ent expe­ri­ences, reac­tions and explo­rations of iden­ti­ty – whether through gen­der and sex­u­al­i­ty or food and lan­guage. The use of the quick cut and know­ing sub­ti­tles in Eng­lish and Ara­bic adds anoth­er lay­er of visu­al crit­i­cism to the film, and shows how cer­tain images and musi­cal moods can rein­force stereotypes.


Fea­tur­ing orig­i­nal sound by Sophie K. and visu­al design by Jere­my Rieder, mosa­ic فسيفساء was co-direct­ed by Lay­la Madanat, an Arab-British inter­dis­ci­pli­nary artist and social jus­tice activist, and Eleanor Naw­al, an British-Egypt­ian actor and writer. The exhi­bi­tion, curat­ed by Mishelle Brito, is part of P21’s reACT series, which pro­motes and sup­ports emerg­ing and stu­dent artists with work ded­i­cat­ed to or inspired by the Mid­dle East and the Arab world.

Until June 12, Exhibition Light Upon Light: Light Art Since The 1960s at the King Abdullah Financial District Conference Center, Al Aqiq, Riyadh 13511, Saudi Arabia

While in many inter­na­tion­al cities, muse­ums are closed under lock­down rules, the exhi­bi­tion Light upon Light is open to the pub­lic and online. Thir­ty inter­na­tion­al artists play with, reflect and gen­er­ate light in immer­sive and inter­ac­tive instal­la­tion, video and sculp­ture. The Japan­ese artist Yay­oi Kusama, who loves pol­ka dots, daz­zles with Infin­i­ty Mir­ror Room – Bril­liance of Souls, 2014. For the instal­la­tion Mito­chon­dria: Pow­er­hous­es, 2021, Sau­di physi­cian and artist Ahmed Mater uses a Tes­la res­o­nance trans­former coil and cre­ates a flow of high volt­age and alter­nat­ing cur­rent elec­tri­cal light­ning strikes, which melt sand and form glass sculpture.

Still from Alia Ali's film  Mahjar .

Anoth­er Sau­di artist, Man­al Al Dowayan, takes a less vis­cer­al approach with the words in poet­ic light: Nos­tal­gia Takes Us to the Sea But Desire Keep Us from the Shore, 2010. Al Dowayan was in con­ver­sa­tion with British Muse­um cura­tor Vene­tia Porter and artists New­sha Tavako­lian, from Iran, and Lau­ra Boush­nak, from Pales­tine, and spoke about the fast past of change tak­ing place in her coun­try, an event avail­able on YouTube.  

Light upon Light was curat­ed by Susan David­son, for­mer­ly from the Guggen­heim Muse­um and Sau­di cura­tor Raneem Zaki Far­si. It is the first edi­tion of Noor Riyadh, the first city-wide pub­lic art pro­gram; and Art Riyadh, a nation­al pub­lic art ini­tia­tive, new projects that coin­cide with Vision 2030 to reduce Sau­di Ara­bi­a’s depen­den­cy on oil and diver­si­fy its econ­o­my through tourism and cul­ture. Despite the reli­gious con­no­ta­tions of the exhi­bi­tion’s title Nûr ‘alâ Nûr, in Ara­bic, the high-end art project has been crit­i­cized for “art-wash­ing” the coun­try’s dire human rights record.

Through April, Exhibition Muslims With Christians and Jews; Covenants and Coexistence at the International Museum of Muslim Cultures 

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Cel­e­brat­ing Islam­ic Her­itage Month, an annu­al event in Jack­son, Mis­sis­sip­pi since 2016, the Mus­lims with Chris­tians and Jews: Covenants and Coex­is­tence exhi­bi­tion at the Inter­na­tion­al Muse­um of Mus­lim Cul­tures (IMMC) explores the his­tor­i­cal and cur­rent rela­tion­ship between Islam and Amer­i­ca. Through his­tor­i­cal covenants and treaties the Prophet Muham­mad made with Chris­tians and Jews liv­ing in sev­enth cen­tu­ry Med­i­na, ideas of coex­is­tence and gov­er­nance influ­enced Amer­i­ca’s found­ing fathers, through what they knew and said about Islam. Curat­ed by Lina Ali, Jeanne Luck­ett and Oko­lo Rashid, Mus­lims with Chris­tians and Jews also fea­tures the voic­es of African Amer­i­can Mus­lims and con­nects that ear­ly strug­gle for free­dom in Amer­i­ca to today’s Islam­o­pho­bia and the ongo­ing fight in the coun­try for civ­il and human rights.

Opening Late Spring Until September 12, 2021, Exhibition EPIC IRAN Epic Iran at the Victoria & Albert Museum

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The Epic Iran exhi­bi­tion explores 5,000 years of Per­sian art, design and cul­ture though sculp­ture, ceram­ics and car­pets, tex­tiles, pho­tog­ra­phy and film. The his­toric objects and art­works reflect the Iran’s vibrant his­toric cul­ture, archi­tec­tur­al splen­dors, the abun­dance of myth, poet­ry and tra­di­tion, and the evolv­ing, self-renew­ing art and cul­ture of today. From the Cyrus Cylin­der and intri­cate illu­mi­nat­ed man­u­scripts of the Shah­nameh to ten-meter-long paint­ings of Isfa­han tile work, Shirin Neshat’s two-screen video instal­la­tion Tur­bu­lent, and Shirin Ali­abadi’s strik­ing pho­to­graph of a young woman chew­ing bub­blegum, the exhi­bi­tion presents an over­ar­ch­ing nar­ra­tive of Iran from 3000 bc.

It cov­ers: the Land of Iran; Emerg­ing Iran start­ing in 3200 bc when writ­ing first occurred; The Per­sian Empire and the Achaemenid peri­od; Last of the Ancient Empires and Alexan­der the Great; the Book of Kings, on the Shah­nameh; Change of Faith, after the Arab con­quest in the mid-sev­enth cen­tu­ry ad; Lit­er­ary Excel­lence on poet­ry, patron­age and art; The Old and the New of the Qajar dynasty; and, final­ly, Mod­ern and Con­tem­po­rary Iran, which charts mid-cen­tu­ry mod­ernisms to the present day, with Farhad Moshiri and Sha­di Ghadiri­an, among oth­er artists.

Epic Iran was orga­nized by the V&A with the Iran Her­itage Foun­da­tion, in asso­ci­a­tion with the Sarikhani Col­lec­tion. Due to covid restric­tions, the exhi­bi­tion will open in late spring.

RSVP here.

FRIDAY, MAY 7, 2021 12:00 pm EST | 17:00 pm BST  | 9:00 am PST, Conversation on the Poetics of Exile: NYC, Tehran, Paris
in The Literatures of Annihilation, Exile & Resistance series at the University of Notre Dame

poetics of exile may 7.jpg Four writ­ers dis­cuss the poet­ics of dis­lo­ca­tion and exile from dif­fer­ent places and points of view. Négar Djava­di was born in Iran in 1969 to a fam­i­ly of intel­lec­tu­als opposed to the Shah and then lat­er to Khome­i­ni. Hav­ing escaped the coun­try by cross­ing the moun­tains of Kur­dis­tan on horse­back with her moth­er and sis­ter, she arrived in France at the age of eleven. She wrote the debut nov­el Dis­ori­en­tal and is a screen­writer in Paris.

Salar Abdoh, also born in Iran, now lives between Tehran and New York City. Abdoh teach­es in the MFA pro­gram at the City Col­lege of New York and is the recip­i­ent of the NYFA Prize and the Nation­al Endow­ment for the Arts award. He has authored four nov­els, includ­ing the most recent, Out of Mesopotamia. Mod­er­at­ing the con­ver­sa­tion will be writer and trans­la­tor Hana Mor­gen­stern, uni­ver­si­ty lec­tur­er in Post­colo­nial and Mid­dle East Lit­er­a­ture at Cam­bridge Uni­ver­si­ty, a fel­low at Newn­ham Col­lege and co-direc­tor of the Doc­u­ments of the Arab Left and the Rev­o­lu­tion­ary Papers projects.


Ask­ing the ques­tions with her is Aza­reen Van der Vli­et Oloo­mi, direc­tor of cre­ative writ­ing at the Uni­ver­si­ty of Notre Dame and author of Call Me Zebra, the win­ner of the 2019 PEN/Faulkner Award, and the John Gard­ner Fic­tion Award. She was also long-list­ed for the PEN/Open Book Award. Van der Vli­et Oloo­mi is the direc­tor of Notre Dame’s MFA Cre­ative Writ­ing Pro­gram and a Fel­low of the Kroc Insti­tute for Inter­na­tion­al Peace Stud­ies. Her nov­el Sav­age Tongues will be pub­lished lat­er this year.


The event is organ­ised by Lit­er­a­tures of Anni­hi­la­tion, Exile & Resis­tance: An Inter­dis­ci­pli­nary Approach to the Glob­al Mid­dle East and North Africa, and is a bi-annu­al sym­po­sium and lec­ture series. It focus­es on the study of lit­er­a­tures that have been shaped by his­to­ries of ter­ri­to­r­i­al and lin­guis­tic pol­i­tics, colo­nial­ism, mil­i­tary dom­i­na­tion and gross human rights vio­la­tions. The ini­tia­tive grap­ples with the con­struct­ed nature of his­to­ry; reimag­ines Amer­i­can and glob­al alter­na­tive nar­ra­tives from the posi­tion of sup­pressed voic­es; and exam­ines how minori­tized writ­ers and schol­ars have his­tor­i­cal­ly inno­vat­ed lit­er­ary pro­duc­tion and the­o­ry in the process of respond­ing to sys­temic violence. 

RVSP here.

APRIL–JUNE 2021, Online series of talks HISTORIES and ARCHIVES OF ARABIC PUBLISHING, from the British Library and the Murray Edwards College, University of Cambridge

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These lec­tures and con­ver­sa­tions will explore pub­lish­ing prac­tices in Ara­bic as a site for unfold­ing intel­lec­tu­al net­works, artis­tic prac­tices and polit­i­cal imag­i­nar­ies from the 1960s until the present. Lead­ing prac­ti­tion­ers in the field will exam­ine past and present prac­tices of pub­lish­ing in Ara­bic, and address ques­tions of scale of oper­a­tions and reach; medi­ums and for­mats; audi­ence and lan­guage; and the social and polit­i­cal con­text. The series, which also con­sid­ers con­tem­po­rary col­lect­ing prac­tices of pub­lish­ing archives, high­lights col­lec­tions’ capac­i­ty to fore­ground pub­lish­ing archives not mere­ly as a sig­ni­fi­er of oth­er his­tor­i­cal process­es but as a his­tor­i­cal process in their own right.

The first ses­sion, on Tues April 27 at 17:00 PM BST | 12:00 PM EST | 9 AM PST (reg­is­ter via Zoom), brings togeth­er artists and cura­tors Ala You­nis and Maha Mamoun, in con­ver­sa­tion with art his­to­ri­an Hala Auji, to talk about Kay­fa ta: On Shapeshift­ing Texts and Oth­er Pub­lish­ing Tac­tics. In 2012, You­nis and Mamoun found­ed Kay­fa ta, an inde­pen­dent pub­lish­ing ini­tia­tive that emerged from a need to extend beyond the lim­it­ed read­er­ship and dis­tri­b­u­tion of non-main­stream alter­na­tive books. 

The sec­ond ses­sion, on Tues 11 May at 17:00 PM BST | 12:00 PM EST | 9 AM PST (reg­is­ter via Zoom), will be giv­en by Huda Smit­shui­jzen Abi­Farès, found­ing direc­tor of the Khatt Foun­da­tion and Khatt Books pub­lish­ers. She will speak on The Ara­bic Design Library: Alter­na­tive Nar­ra­tives from the Arab World, and the impor­tance of doc­u­ment­ing and pre­sent­ing an alter­na­tive design his­to­ry from parts of the world that are rarely cov­ered in main-stream design pub­li­ca­tions. She will be joined by Cairo-based mul­ti­dis­ci­pli­nary design­er, researcher and writer Moe Elhos­seiny, who will dis­cuss the Ara­bic Cov­er Design Archive: Dig­i­tal Archives as Design Activism.

For the third ses­sion, on Tues 25 May, at 17:00 PM BST | 12:00 PM EST | 9 AM PST (reg­is­ter via Zoom), Zeina Maas­ri, senior lec­tur­er in the School of Human­i­ties at the Uni­ver­si­ty of Brighton, will speak along­side Berlin-based artist col­lec­tive Fehras Pub­lish­ing Prac­tices (Sami Rus­tom, Omar Nico­las and Kenan Dar­wich) about their respec­tive projects on Ara­bic pub­lish­ing dur­ing the Cold War.

His­to­ries and Archives of Ara­bic Pub­lish­ing is co-curat­ed and con­vened by Hana Sleiman, Research Fel­low in His­to­ry at Mur­ray Edwards Col­lege, Uni­ver­si­ty of Cam­bridge, and Daniel Lowe, Cura­tor of Ara­bic Col­lec­tions at the British Library, in part­ner­ship with the Del­fi­na Foun­da­tion, Mur­ray Edwards Col­lege, Uni­ver­si­ty of Cam­bridge, and the Mid­dle East His­to­ry Group, Fac­ul­ty of His­to­ry, Uni­ver­si­ty of Cambridge.

UNTIL JUNE 6, 2021

sugar routes zineb sedira world picks.png The exhi­bi­tion Sug­ar Routes by Alger­ian-ori­gin artist Zineb Sedi­ra high­lights the sweet­ness of sug­ar ver­sus the bit­ter­ness of the sto­ry behind its trade and con­sump­tion. Pho­tographs of sug­ar from dif­fer­ent parts of the world housed in a mod­ern ware­house in Mar­seille recount the his­to­ry of transocean­ic human migra­tion, the tri­an­gu­lar trade routes of the eigh­teenth and nine­teenth cen­turies and the con­tin­ued trade of sug­ar across the Atlantic for mass con­sump­tion in a con­tem­po­rary con­text. The moun­tain­ous piles present a land­scape of extrac­tion where mul­ti­ple geo­gra­phies con­vene and merge with one anoth­er, with the ware­house as an in-between space of encounter before the sug­ar is processed for con­sump­tion. A sculp­ture of an anchor made from cane sug­ar found in the French silo acts as a metaphor for migra­tion and diaspora. 

Sug­ar Routes, orig­i­nal­ly com­mis­sioned by Mar­seille Provence 2013, Euro­pean Cap­i­tal of Cul­ture and the Port of Mar­seille, is part of Liv­er­pool Bien­ni­al 2021, which takes over the city’s pub­lic spaces, his­toric sites and art gal­leries. Its 11th edi­tion, The Stom­ach and the Port, curat­ed by Manuela Moscoso, inves­ti­gates notions of the body and ways of con­nect­ing with the world.

 THURSDAY, APRIL 29, 2021 FROM 18:00 TO 19:30 PM BST | 13:00 TO 14:30 EST |  10 AM PST Discussion on We Wrote in Symbols: Love and Lust by Arab Women Writers, at the Arab British Centre with Saqi Books, with Selma Dabbagh, Lisa Luxx, Saieda Rouass, Yasmine Seale and Hanan Al-Shaykh

we wrote in symbols event.jpg The anthol­o­gy We Wrote in Sym­bols cel­e­brates the works of 75 women writ­ers of Arab her­itage who artic­u­late love and lust with artistry and skill. From a masked ren­dezvous in a cir­cus, to meet­ings in under­ground bars and unmade beds, there is no such thing as a typ­i­cal sex­u­al encounter. Edi­tor Sel­ma Dab­bagh, dis­cuss­es the book with four con­trib­u­tors: lisa luxx, queer poet, essay­ist and activist of British and Syr­i­an her­itage, whose debut poet­ry col­lec­tion Fetch Your Moth­er’s Heart will be released by Out-Spo­ken Press in May; Saei­da Rouass, a nov­el­ist from Lon­don and author of Eigh­teen Days of Spring in Win­ter and Assem­bly of the Dead; Yas­mine Seale, a British-Syr­i­an writer, trans­la­tor and author of Aladdin: A New Trans­la­tion and the forth­com­ing Agi­tat­ed Air: Poems after Ibn Ara­bi; and Hanan al-Shaykh, the cel­e­brat­ed nov­el­ist, play­wright and jour­nal­ist from Lebanon, whose books include I Sweep the Sun Off Rooftops and The Occa­sion­al Vir­gin. Dab­bagh is a British-Pales­tin­ian writer whose debut nov­el Out of It (Blooms­bury) was the 2011 Guardian Book of the Year. She has also worked as a writer for fea­ture films and radio plays and is a writer for fea­ture films and radio plays.


Arabic publishingEpic IranexileHanan Al-ShaykhPalestinian hip hopSalah AbdohSelma DabbaghZineb Sedira

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.”


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