World Picks: August 2021

12 August, 2021

World Picks August 2021 art by Jalal Sepehr.jpg


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.

Beirut Narratives, Solidifying Our Collective Consciousness • Selections Arts Magazine

Artis­tic response to the 4 August 2020 Beirut port explosion

Céline and Tatiana Stephan, co-founders of Archi­tec­ture | Mecan­ismes | Projects | Lebanon have launched a chal­leng­ing project that reacts to last year’s hor­rif­ic port explo­sion in Beirut. The Stephan sis­ters saw the resul­tant human and mate­r­i­al dam­age as sym­bol­iz­ing the lam­en­ta­ble polit­i­cal and eco­nom­ic state of their native Lebanon.

Just 20 days after the 4 August 2020 blast, they began gath­er­ing pho­tographs, children’s draw­ings, and tes­ti­mo­ni­als writ­ten in Eng­lish, Ara­bic and French by ordi­nary civil­ian wit­ness­es. They then print­ed the words on can­vas­es and began drap­ing them over build­ings near the dis­as­ter site, such as Karan­ti­na police sta­tion, the Elie Khoury Build­ing, and the Mar Tow­er in Mar Elias. Telling­ly, these “tapes­tries” are stitched togeth­er using fish­ing line plas­tic wire, the same mate­r­i­al that health­care work­ers use to bind people’s wounds. The first pub­lic dis­plays went up this May, and Beirutis are encour­aged to add new ele­ments to the bur­geon­ing ven­ture. Lat­er the orga­niz­ers hope the art­work will trav­el beyond Lebanon.

Gulf Arab Artists Are Ready for You to See Their Work | Art & Object (

A new show­case for Gulf Arab artists

A pool of cre­ativ­i­ty cham­pi­oned by Seka mag­a­zine and Khalee­ji Art Museum

Art by Omani artist Mujahid Al Malki (courtesy Khaleeji Art Museum).
Art by Omani artist Mujahid Al Mal­ki (cour­tesy Khalee­ji Art Museum).

Frus­trat­ed by the bar­ring of all but the most rec­og­nized names from appear­ing in estab­lished Gulf art gal­leries, four years ago Seka Mag­a­zine began dig­i­tal­ly shar­ing work by hith­er­to neglect­ed cre­ative tal­ents. The youth-led arts and cul­ture pub­li­ca­tion and plat­form Seka has since run numer­ous exhi­bi­tions via their pio­neer­ing dig­i­tal Khalee­ji Art Muse­um.

Seka’s co-founder and “sto­ry­teller-in-chief”, Man­ar Al Hinai, places spe­cial empha­sis on address­ing social­ly charged top­ics and pro­mot­ing work by women. She has attract­ed to her sta­ble artists such as the late painter Zakia Al Dubaikhi (Sau­di Ara­bia), Fatema Al Zari (Bahrain), pix­el artist and ani­ma­tor Dana Al Rashid (Kuwait) and Huda Jamal (Bahrain). Also includ­ed are pho­tog­ra­ph­er Mah­mood Al Zad­jali (Oman), dig­i­tal artist Mujahid Al Mal­ki (Oman) and graph­ic design­er Khalid Al Refaie (Kuwait). Past exhi­bi­tions have cov­ered sub­jects such as sex­u­al harass­ment and reac­tions to the Covid cri­sis. Most recent­ly, Seka has pre­sent­ed “Sum­mer in the Gulf” in Dubai Fes­ti­val City. It fea­tures six Gulf artists and is reput­ed­ly “the world’s largest per­ma­nent out­door projection.”

Meet the Arab Women of Determination Celebrating Body Positivity (

Inspi­ra­tion from Arab women who sur­vive trauma

Dareen Barbar
Dareen Bar­bar

Vogue Ara­bia recent­ly ran a mov­ing fea­ture on three women from Arab coun­tries who all lost a leg yet tri­umphed over their adver­si­ty. The way Rania Ham­mad from Egypt, Alaïa Zainab Al Eqabi from Iraq and Dareen Bar­bar from Lebanon tell their sto­ries should inspire us all.

Dareen, for instance, suf­fered her fate through can­cer at 15; yet recent­ly won a Guin­ness world record for the longest sta­t­ic wall sit for a female amputee. Rania bare­ly sur­vived a train crash in Lon­don when preg­nant; only to use that har­row­ing expe­ri­ence to launch a fash­ion career via Insta­gram. Mean­while Zainab, a trained phar­ma­cist, endured a bomb explo­sion yet now is now a TV pre­sen­ter who runs triathlons and scu­ba-dives. She also pro­motes pros­thet­ic limbs and cham­pi­ons women who have suf­fered both phys­i­cal wounds and cal­lous prej­u­dices from an uncar­ing soci­ety. The fea­ture shows all three wear­ing ele­gant fash­ions while proud­ly show­ing their false legs. To all women who lack con­fi­dence, Zainab says: “You mat­ter. Love your­self for who you are and only ever change for your­self. Be brave and strong… because every­one is strug­gling in their own way”.

In sim­i­lar vein, the cur­rent issue of Vogue Ara­bia show­cas­es two strik­ing essays under the rubric “A Year After the Beirut Explosion.”

The first has Lebanese pho­tog­ra­ph­er Tarek Moukka­dem “telling sur­vivors’ sto­ries through their scars.” In the sec­ond, Lebanese design­ers and stars describe resilience after the 2020 blast.

East and West shall never meet? Not true – just look at Gothic cathedrals

Diana Darke, author of the award-win­ning book, Steal­ing from the Sara­cens: How Islam­ic Archi­tec­ture Shaped Europe, presents her the­sis in this appeal­ing­ly acces­si­ble video:

She argues that medieval Cru­saders, pil­grims, bish­ops and mer­chants returned from Dam­as­cus, Jerusalem, Bagh­dad, and Cairo, as well as Mus­lim Spain, Sici­ly, and Venice, with rev­o­lu­tion­ary archi­tec­tur­al and artis­tic ideas. These include point­ed arch­es, gra­cious arcades, ribbed vaults, stained glass and even her­aldry. Mus­lim geo­met­ric mason­ic genius thus found new homes in such Goth­ic splen­dours as Can­ter­bury, Chartres and Kings Col­lege, Cam­bridge. Her pre­sen­ta­tion is one of sev­er­al host­ed by the Emir Stein Cen­tre, whose ethos is “pro­mo­tion of empa­thy and under­stand­ing through cul­tur­al and reli­gious lit­er­a­cy” – in par­tic­u­lar, to counter igno­rance about Islam and Muslims.


9 August — 30 December – Echoes from Lebanon: A Collective Virtual Exhibition

Find­ing beau­ty in the courage of Lebanese fight­ing against the odds…

Dozens of artists are par­tic­i­pat­ing in an ambi­tious online exhi­bi­tion that address­es Lebanon’s mul­ti­ple woes: cor­rup­tion, eco­nom­ic col­lapse, polit­i­cal melt­down and the after­ef­fects of the August 2020 Beirut port blast. Instead of emu­lat­ing the gloom, how­ev­er, they seek “to sub­li­mate the suf­fer­ing by mak­ing some­thing beau­ti­ful out of every sit­u­a­tion,” writes the plat­form Lebtivity.

Backed by the I Have Learned Acad­e­my and the Kon­rad-Ade­nauer-Stiftung, Lebanon Office, the show is acces­si­ble through a ful­ly inter­ac­tive web­site here, where view­ers can learn about each artist and art­work. They can also view more than two hours of videos; dip into side-vaults describ­ing ground zero after the August explo­sion; or explore themes like Thawra (Rev­o­lu­tion): the Lebanese Scream, and Lebanon’s Struggles.

Works include Sasha Haddad’s sear­ing 2020 post-blast dig­i­tal illus­tra­tion that inter­pos­es shat­tered glass with doves and the word “Beirut” in Ara­bic. Oth­ers pre­date last year’s calami­ty, show­ing that Lebanon’s tragedy sad­ly has a longer pedi­gree. One such is the satir­i­cal graf­fi­ti of a mous­ta­chioed man in stocks, by Said F Mah­moud and Karim Tamer­ji from 2014, echo­ing an ear­li­er cri­sis of gov­er­nance, called “Change What The Elders Couldn’t.”

21 July – 10 October – Jarda at People’s History Museum in Manchester



Nature and cli­mate change through Arab eyes in Manchester

As floods and fires sweep the world this sum­mer, few regions know the per­ils of cli­mate change bet­ter than the Mid­dle East. Fit­ting­ly the People’s His­to­ry Museum’s is host­ing a col­lec­tive instal­la­tion, Jar­da, “an immer­sive walk in nature through Arab eyes.” Jar­da is a Maghre­bi Ara­bic term for gar­den and the Eng­lish-Moroc­can cre­ative, Jes­si­ca El-Mal, is its cura­tor and lead artist. Oth­er artists include Maryam Alsaeid, Hibah Ali, Sanaa Seda­ki, Hana Masaarane, Reem Alaze­mi and Soraya Agaoglu. The show forms part of the Arab British Centre’s Arab Britain pro­gram, which explores the his­to­ry, achieve­ments and expe­ri­ences of Arabs in the UK, past and present. Jar­da also offers a free dig­i­tal pack of cre­ative activ­i­ties peo­ple can do from home based on the exhibition’s themes.

“After the year we’ve just had, this project and exhi­bi­tion is the light­ness we all need,” com­ments Jes­si­ca. Over­lap­ping with Jar­da is anoth­er instal­la­tion by her, half an hour’s dri­ve away, along the Mersey, and still view­able until 15 August as part of the Liv­er­pool Arab Arts Fes­ti­val. This one is called “Grounds for Con­cern” and con­sists of two giant col­lages cri­tiquing man-made bor­ders, and more par­tic­u­lar­ly the bor­der con­trol regime that faces Maghre­bi migrants try­ing to land in Gibral­tar. The work is pro­ject­ed onto the out­side wall of the Open Eye Gallery at Mann Island Atri­um, Liv­er­pool Waterfront.

19–29 August – Resistance, Rebellion and Revolution, at Hoxton 253, London

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Cel­e­brat­ing the life of late Libyan artist and satirist, Hasan “Alsatoor” Dhaimish

Resis­tance, Rebel­lion & Rev­o­lu­tion — HOXTON 253

Coin­cid­ing with the tenth anniver­sary of the upris­ing that over­threw Libyan dic­ta­tor Muam­mar Ghadaf­fi, on 28 August Hox­ton 253 gallery opens a two-week exhi­bi­tion ded­i­cat­ed to the late Hasan Dhaimish (1955–2016). The satir­i­cal artist known as the car­toon­ist Alsatoor was noto­ri­ous — and in cer­tain quar­ters reviled — for his humor­ous though often bru­tal­ly barbed and pre­scient images. Not for noth­ing was he dubbed Alsatoor — the Cleaver.

Yet Dhaimish had anoth­er side.

Since flee­ing Libya in 1974, to set­tled in Lan­cashire, UK, he began cre­at­ing gen­tler and more affec­tion­ate works inspired by his love of jazz and blues. The inter­net gave his polit­i­cal work a sec­ond wind, too, which no doubt influ­enced forces on the ground in his native Beng­hazi; though he must have regret­ted the civ­il war that fol­lowed the upris­ing of 2011. The east Lon­don show coin­cides with the pub­li­ca­tion of a lim­it­ed edi­tion book by his son, Sherif Dhaimish — Hasan ‘Alsatoor’ Dhaimish — A Libyan Artist in Exile (Pen­dle Press, 2021).

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26 Aug 20:00–22:00 (CEST) هيHeya: Blue Spaces premiere and artist talk | Liverpool Arab Arts Festival

هيHeyais an exper­i­men­tal music project, which aims to act as a bridge for women mak­ing music in the Mid­dle East. For Liv­er­pool Arab Arts Fes­ti­val 2021, mem­bersNour Sokhon, Yara Mekawei, Zeynep Ayşe HatipoğluandJil­liene Sell­nerbring usBlue Spaces — a film event that rais­es ques­tions about class, gen­der and colo­nial­ism and how they relate to the cli­mate crisis.

Com­posed of voice, cel­lo, son­ic inter­ven­tions, field record­ings and video footage from Cairo, Beirut, Istan­bul and Hast­ings,Blue Spacesis a stereo sound­scape with an ethe­re­al, flu­id feel –exist­ing in stark con­trast to the real­i­ties of class, gen­der and the polit­i­cal and cli­mate based trau­mas of the Mid­dle East.

The cli­mate cri­sis that the world now faces is large­ly down to indus­try and con­sumerism that is root­ed in the West­ern world, yet a lack of respon­si­bil­i­ty for these real­i­ties still endures. The impact that this activ­i­ty is now hav­ing across the Mid­dle East falls main­ly on the shoul­ders of women and the work­ing class – themes that will be reflect­ed in the sounds and visu­al work ofBlue Spaces.


2 Sept, 20:00 • Ahmad Fakroun, veteran Libyan singer, pioneer of modern Arab World Music at Jazz Café, Camden, London

Ahmed Fakroun (b. 1953) is a singer and song­writer from Beng­hazi, Libya and a pio­neer of mod­ern Arab world music who looked set to make his mark in world music cir­cles in the mid-1980s when his album Mots D’Amour, com­bin­ing tra­di­tion­al Arab melodies with elec­tron­ic music, was released on the Cel­lu­loid label in France. But years of inter­na­tion­al sanc­tions imped­ed Libyan cit­i­zens’ free­dom of move­ment and he spent long peri­ods abroad in the ‘70s and ‘80s. In the last ten years he has come to promi­nence on the club scene when some of his ear­ly songs were redis­cov­ered, re-edit­ed and reis­sued anony­mous­ly by DJs and label owners.

John Storm Roberts of Orig­i­nal Music wrote that amongraïsingers, the pop-ori­ent­ed Ahmed Fakroun stands out on two grounds. First, he is influ­enced byEuropopand Frenchart rock, not just the gen­er­al­ized rock of the oth­ers. Sec­ond, he’s a mul­ti-instru­men­tal­ist in both tra­di­tions as well as a singer. He playsbouzou­ki-likesaz, man­dol anddar­bou­kadrum, as well as gui­tar, bass gui­tar and key­boards. Some­times he seems over­ly crossover-ori­ent­ed: but on form, his crossover deep­ens into telling bicul­tur­al­ism. Reserve your seats at London’s Jazz Café: AHMED FAKROUN Tick­ets | £14.85 | 2 Sep.

10 Sept 2021, 17:30 (CET) An evening homage for Lebanon, Institut du Monde Arabe, Paris 

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Lebanon is under­go­ing one of the worst eco­nom­ic, social and polit­i­cal crises in its his­to­ry. The explo­sion in the port of Beirut on August 4, 2020, has brought the coun­try to its knees. Renowned through­out the region for its flour­ish­ing cul­tur­al life, con­certs, fes­ti­vals, the­aters, cin­e­ma and artists, Lebanon is see­ing its role as a cul­tur­al bea­con threat­ened as nev­er before, despite the remark­able courage of its liv­ing forces.

Cre­at­ed in 1956, the Baal­bek Fes­ti­val has brought togeth­er artists from all over the world for more than six­ty years in the heart of an excep­tion­al archae­o­log­i­cal site. Among those who have trod­den the soil of the Roman City of the Sun are: Matthieu Che­did and the entire Che­did fam­i­ly, Jean-Michel Jarre, Ibrahim Maalouf, Car­olyn Carl­son, Ella Fitzger­ald, Miles Davis, Oum Kalthoum, Fairuz, Deep Pur­ple, the New York Phil­har­mon­ic Orches­tra, Mau­rice Béjart’s bal­let, Rudolf Noureev, the Comédie française.…

The last edi­tion of the fes­ti­val, “The Sound of Resilience” did not wel­come peo­ple in per­son because of the health cri­sis. Today, there is a desire to keep the fes­ti­val alive. On Sep­tem­ber 10, 2021, an excep­tion­al con­cert will bring togeth­er lovers of Lebanon at the Insti­tute du Monde Arabe, 1 Rue des Fos­sés Saint-Bernard, 75005 Paris, to res­ur­rect the Fes­ti­val. Under the lead­er­ship of pianist Simon Ghraichy, artists Anna Che­did, Bahia El Bacha, Camille El Bacha, Rana Gor­gani and Jacopo Baboni-Schilin­gi will offer an extra­or­di­nary musi­cal event.

Under the high patron­age of François Hol­lande and the ini­tia­tive Li Beirut of UNESCO, with the sup­port of the Arab World Insti­tute chaired by Jack Lang, this con­cert will raise funds that will ensure, despite the eco­nom­ic cri­sis, the hold­ing of the Fes­ti­val of Baal­bek. It will be an oppor­tu­ni­ty to offer the Lebanese a moment of escape and to share an ide­al of har­mo­ny, free­dom and hope.

This unique show will be accom­pa­nied by a vis­it to the Arab World Institute’s exhi­bi­tion “Divas: from Oum Kalthoum to Dal­i­da” which will intro­duce you to the gold­en voic­es of Arab song.

RSVP here

Ends 19 September • The Drawing Center: Huguette Caland: Tête-à-Tête



On view through Sep­tem­ber 19, 2021,Tête-à-Têtespans Lebanese artist Huguette Caland’s five-decade career and fea­tures over 100 works on paper and can­vas, as well as caf­tans, sculp­tures, and note­books on and in which she wield­ed her pen. Cel­e­brat­ing Caland’s uncon­ven­tion­al and exu­ber­ant per­spec­tive on both life and art, the exhi­bi­tion sur­veys how she used the medi­um of draw­ing through­out her career to chal­lenge tra­di­tion­al rep­re­sen­ta­tions of sex­u­al­i­ty, the body, and desire.

At the age of thir­ty-three, Caland declared her inten­tion to become an artist and enrolled in art cours­es at the Amer­i­can Uni­ver­si­ty of Beirut, where she cre­at­ed some of her ear­li­est compositions…

“There’s plen­ty to say about Huguette Caland, on the occa­sion of “Huguette Caland: Tête-à-Tête” at the Draw­ing Cen­ter, a love­ly (if too small) sur­vey of her career, curat­ed by Claire Gilman and Isabel­la Kapur.

Installation view of “Huguette Caland: Tête-à-Tête” at the Drawing Center (photo: Ben Davis).
Instal­la­tion view of “Huguette Caland: Tête-à-Tête” at the Draw­ing Cen­ter (pho­to: Ben Davis).

“Caland is an increas­ing­ly impor­tant fig­ure in recent art his­to­ry, her rise coin­cid­ing both with a surge of inter­est in over­looked women artists and the mount­ing polit­i­cal insta­bil­i­ty in her coun­try of birth, Lebanon, which has put a spot­light on its his­to­ry and culture.”

Read a com­pre­hen­sive review of Huguette Caland’s life and work by Ben Davis in Art­net News.


Until September 12, 2021 — Exhibition EPIC IRAN at the Victoria & Albert Museum 

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 Iranstart­ing in 3200 bc when writ­ing first occurred; The Per­sian Empireand 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 Excel­lenceon 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.

RSVP here.

Through 26 September — Divas: D’Oum Kalthoum à Dalida at the Institut du Monde Arab, Paris

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.



Lis­ten to MARSM mix­tapes for free on Sound­Cloud.


For decades, her voice sang the sound­track to mil­lions of lives across the Mid­dle East. Now the Insti­tut du Monde Arabe cel­e­brates the stage and sil­ver screen her­itage of Umm Kulthum and oth­er Arab chanteuses with an exhi­bi­tion appro­pri­ate­ly called Divas: D’Oum Kalthoum à Dal­i­da.

Open­ing on 19 May and last­ing till 26 Sep­tem­ber, Divas already fea­tures sev­er­al tempt­ing amus­es bouch­es in the form of short videos on YouTube, with such allur­ing titles (in Eng­lish trans­la­tion) as Mil­i­tant Divas and Pio­neers of Arab Fem­i­nism. The web­site also comes replete with evoca­tive film posters, going back to 1927 with Behid­ja Hafez in Laila bint al-sahara [Laila, la fille du desert].

These divas were no shrink­ing vio­lets or hap­less sex objects: Hafez, for instance, was Laila’s cen­tral char­ac­ter, direc­tor and co-pro­duc­er. Tahiyya Car­i­o­ca, the occa­sion­al­ly risqué artiste of 1930s films, was also, we learn, an ardent com­mu­nist, who spent three months in prison after Gamel Abdul Nass­er took pow­er. Dal­i­da, a for­mer Miss Egypt in her leop­ard-skin biki­nis, lat­er high­light­ed social inequities in her many films; while Hoda Chaaraoui found­ed a salon in 1908 that cham­pi­oned free thought and female emancipation.

For her part, Samia Gamal cre­at­ed a new dance form blend­ed from Arab, clas­si­cal West­ern and Latin Amer­i­can styles, and appeared in a bewil­der­ing 50 films dur­ing the 1940s and 1950s. Asma­han, daugh­ter of a Druze princess, not only pos­sessed an unpar­al­leled voice but also risked her life spy­ing for the Allies in World War II. War­da began singing cabaret in Paris, but soon was mov­ing mil­lions with paeons to the Alger­ian rev­o­lu­tion and donat­ed con­cert tak­ings to the anti-colo­nial­ist FLN militia.

Equal­ly defi­ant of con­ser­v­a­tive norms, Lay­la Mourad – born Lil­lian Zaki Mourad Mordechai to a Jew­ish fam­i­ly – debuted at 15 in the 1932 film, Al-Dahaaya (The Victims). She charmed a gen­er­a­tion of cin­e­ma-goers with her singing and comedic act­ing, and even oust­ed Umm Kulthum as “voice of the rev­o­lu­tion” in 1953… until jeal­ous rivals called her an Israeli spy.

While top Egypt­ian mil­i­tary fig­ures quashed the rumors, she nev­er reached the heights of the con­tral­to, Umm Kulthum. The “Voice of Egypt” trans­formed the sound­scape of pop­u­lar Arab music with per­for­mances that often last­ed for more than an hour per song. In 1975 her funer­al brought some four mil­lion mourn­ers onto the streets of Cairo. Unwill­ing to let her go, Egyp­tians to this day throng to con­certs where she “appears” in holo­gram form.

Divas will charm view­ers with its evo­ca­tion of a gold­en age in mod­ern Ara­bic cul­ture. But there is more to the exhi­bi­tion than nos­tal­gic indul­gence. Rather, it reminds one that even a cen­tu­ry ago, pow­er­ful Arab women offered a sense of indi­vid­u­al­ism, and a vision of hope, to a trou­bled region.