World Art, Music & Zoom Beat the Pandemic Blues

28 September, 2020

1907 LP cover by the Levantine label Baidaphone. Lebanese singer Farjallah Baida (1880–1933) sings the popular 19th century poem,

Curated by Malu Halasa

Arab Music Exhibition / Marseille
Orient Resonance: Forgotten Music, Living Music

from/at MUCEM (Musée des civilisations de l’Europe et de la Méditerranée) 

7 Promenade Robert Laffont (Esplanade du J4)
13002 Marseille, FR
Tel: +33 (0)4 84 35 13 13

through the 1st of April, 2021

Listen online or go in person…From the historic sound collections of Foundation AMAR (Arab Music Archiving & Research) comes the exhibition Orient Resonance featuring sixty rare 78 discs from the early twentieth century.

These first records, produced and released by family-owned record companies for local consumption, would have been completely forgotten if not for the digitization, undertaken by AMAR in Beirut. The exhibition also includes video installations of twelve currently endangered oral music traditions. These too would have been lost – this time to war, the persecution of religious and ethnic minorities and changing mores – had they not been collected, documented and recorded in the field, from 2016–19.

From Iraq to North Africa via the Gulf, Arabic song reveals a diversity of sound, melodies and rhythm – in secular, sacred and popular music. Curated by AMAR’s founder Kamal Kassar, with filmmaker and photographer Fadi Yeni Turk.

Al-Budeiry Library in the Old City of Jerusalem. (Courtesy Hill Museum and Manuscript Library)

 Course on Arab Manuscripts “Manuscripts in Arabic Script: Introduction to Codicology”

Institute for the Study of Muslim Civilisations Aga Khan University
10 Handyside St
London N1C 4DN 
Tel: +44 (0) 207 380 3800

course 23-34 October, 2020 on Zoom

This two-day course introduces Arabic manuscripts. The first day will provide an overview of the field of codicology and its role in in identifying the key features of a particular manuscript as well as covering para-textual features in Arabic manuscripts. The second day will be dedicated to writing supports, the structure of quires, ruling and page layout, bookbinding, ornamentation, tools and materials used in bookmaking, and the paleography of book hands, as well as a focus on the importance of manuscripts in research and different approaches in editing manuscripts. With lecturers Dr. Walid Ghali, head of the Aga Khan Library and assistant professor at the Aga Khan University’s Institute for the Study of Muslim Civilisations, in London; and Dr. Anne Regourd, researcher at the Centre National de la Recherche Scientifique/French National Centre for Scientific Research (CNRS) in Paris. Go here for detailed bios.


Tickets: £80 for professionals | £50 for students, AKU alumni and staff. Book your ticket.

Jumanah Bawazir Exhibition / London / Permanent Transience

21–27 Chalton St.
London NW1 1JD
Tel: +44 20 7121 6190

through 10.10.2020 

Through interviews, virtual reconstructing of experience and poetry, Jumanah Bawazir worked with Somali women caught in limbo, after fleeing a country, before resettlement. Permanent Transience gives voice to their experiences while holding to account governments that operate European surveillance systems, which control the flow of migrants. The film in the exhibition tells the story of one Somali woman to illustrate the experiences of some 3.3 million people living under government surveillance. A multidisciplinary designer of mixed heritage, Bawazir draws from architecture, film and poetry to confront systemic injustices of class, race and gender in the lives of BIPOC (black, indigenous, and people of color). 

Heba Y. Amin Exhibition / London / When I see the future, I close my eyes

The Mosaic Rooms
226 Cromwell Rd
London SW5 0SW
Tel: +44 (0) 20 7370 9990 

from Oct. 1, 2020 to the 28th of March, 2021

Operation Sunken Sea: Relocating the Mediterranean, Inaugural Speech , 2018 One channel video, 18'21

This first UK solo exhibition of Berlin-based Egyptian multi-media artist Heba Y. Amin investigates the relationship between elusive narratives of regional Middle East politics and the global concerns. She participated in the subversive graffiti action on the set of the “Homeland” TV series. In the exhibition, each of the artist’s still evolving multimedia pieces – Project Speak2Tweet; The General’s Stork and Operation Sunken Sea all stem from real life: new technological formats instrumental in Egypt’s revolution, a migratory bird turned international ‘spy’, and lastly a proposal to ‘solve’ the migration crisis by pulling the plug on the Mediterranean Sea. “Amin investigates how the elusive narratives of regional politics in the Middle East relate to global concerns. Her research-based, multimedia works take speculative, and sometimes satirical, approaches to understanding these historical events and processes.” Curated by Anthony Downey, who serves as her editor for the forthcoming title The General’s Stork.

Exhibition press release here.

Gender & Identity Project / Neoliberal Visions: Exploring Gendered Adverts and Identities in the Palestinian West Bank

in collaboration with Birzeit University

Dream Home in Palestine  housing loan advert (al-qard al-sakney) from the Arab Bank, Ramallah, 19 January 2017. ‘I wished' (tamaniyat) crossed out and replaced with ‘I owned' (tamalikat). Source: Polly Withers

LSE Middle East Centre
Houghton St
London WC2A 2AE
Tel: +44 (0)20 7405 7686

on through March 2021 

In Ramallah, billboards, TV screens and posters line the streets. Many feature happy heternormative families often admiring the finer things in life like a dream home. The project’s first report, “Neoliberal Visions: Exploring Gendered Adverts and Identities in the Palestinian West Bank” examines the production and consumption of gendered advertisements as a way to explore how neoliberal culture constructs gendered subjectivity. The project broadly asks how transforming forms of political economy, social relations, and cultural practices relate to changing modes of gender and sexualities, identities, desires, and emotions in contemporary Palestine. With principle investigator Dr. Polly Withers, research officer at LSE Middle East Centre, and co-principle investigator, Remi Hammami, an associate professor of anthropology at the Institute of Women’s Studies, Birzeit University.

US Presidential Election: What next for US Policy towards the Middle East?

Webinar from Chatham House
The Royal Institute of International Affairs
10 St. James Square
London SW1Y 4LE
Tel: +44 (0)20 7957 5700

10.27.2020, 13.00–14.00 GMT

The November 3rd US presidential election is expected to significantly impact US policy towards the Middle East. In this webinar, panelists former Ambassador Dennis Ross, former special assistant to President Barack Obama, and Dr. Sanam Vakil, Deputy Director and Senior Research Fellow at Chatham House’s Middle East and North Africa Programme, among others, will consider the regional policy priorities of a Biden and Trump administration and will assess potential responses from the region. Moderated by Chatham House’s Dr. Leslie Vinjamuri, the webinar will be livestreamed on Chatham House’s MENA Programme Facebook page.

 New Documentary by Yasmin Fedda / Ayouni

from Syria 

For the family and friends of the over 100,000 forcibly disappeared in Syria, the ongoing conflict remains an open wound. Ayouni, by the award-winning film director Yasmin Fedda, tells the story of two women looking for their loved ones who disappeared in Syria. Human rights lawyer Noura Ghazi married her husband Bassel Kharabil, an open software designer behind Creative Commons Syria, who worked for Wikipedia and Mozilla. He was arrested in 2012 and then disappeared into Syria’s notorious prison system, where he was secretly executed in 2015. Machi Dall’Oglio began her search for her brother, Paolo, a Jesuit priest and peace activist, after his kidnapping in Raqqa in 2013. Father Paolo had spent thirty years in Syria co-establishing the Deir Mar Musa community for interfaith dialogue in a 6th century monastery north of Damascus. Ayouni, shot over six years and in 10 countries, is a testimony to the power of hope against brutal dictatorship.

 Catch Up / Arab Art in Focus: The Future of Cultural Festivals

Middle East Institute
Washington, D.C. / Online 
1763 N St. NW,
Washington DC 20036
Tel: 202 785-1141 

The impact of Covid-19 has meant that Middle East cultural festivals are rethinking their models and innovating new ways to reach audiences while remaining engaged and relevant. In a region where platforms and opportunities for the performing arts are so limited, how do these new challenges impact broader cultural production and audience engagement? Speakers included H.E. Huda Kanoo, founder of the Abu Dhabi Festival; Ernesto Ottone Ramirez, UNESCO assistant director-general for culture; Raed Asfour, director of the Al Balad Music Festival; and Eckhard Thiemann, artistic director of the Shubbak Festival. Moderated by NPR culture reporter Neda Ulaby.  

The Middle East Institute also hosts an online photo exhibition on Lebanon here.

 Ladies Only Night at Oxygen Park / Qatar Foundation / Doha /

Education City
Doha, Qatar 

Mondays from 17:00-20:00 through the 31st of December, 2020

Oxygen Park’s undulating, organic forms and features were inspired by the desert’s wind-eroded rocks and landscapes. Every Monday evening until the end of the year, the 130,000-square-meter park becomes a women’s only space, ideal for walking, thinking and biking.

Oyxgen Park, Qatar.
Malu Halasa

Malu Halasa is a London-based writer and editor. Her 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.” Next year Kotob Khan in Cairo will publish Mother of All Pigs in Arabic. Malu’s 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. She recently talked to Faisal Al-Yadfai about Mother of All Pigs.

Malu Halasa, Literary Editor at The Markaz Review, is editing the anthology Woman Life Freedom, Voices and Art from the Women’s Protests in Iran, to be published by Saqi Books, September 2023. She curated Transit Tehran in London: Art and Documentary from Iran, the Atrium Gallery, London School of Economics, 2009; and Culture in Defiance: Continuing Traditions of Satire, Art and the Struggle for Freedom in Syria, the Prince Claus Fund Gallery, Amsterdam, The Netherlands, 2012. This exhibition toured and was shown in Rich Mix, in London, as part of the 2013 Shubbak Festival; and at the Rundetårn, Copenhagen. Malu was the gofer for Syrian graffiti artists, in the Victorian & Albert Museum’s exhibition Disobedient Objects, 2015. She participated in Nope to Hope:Graphic and Politics 2008–18, London’s Design Museum, an exhibition that was taken down off museum walls by the artists and participants, after the Design Museum held a reception at the exhibition for the UK arms trade. She worked with Venetia Porter at the British Museum to bring Syrian artists and their work to the museum’s permanent collection. She is currently working on an anthology of writing, art and photography from the women’s protests in Iran.