The largest Arab art and cultural festival in London is taking place between 11-26 July, featuring over 60 events set to take place in the city’s leading cultural venues.
Shubbak: A Window on Contemporary Arab Culture was founded in 2011 and works with a number of London-based and international art institutions to provide audiences with a programme of visual arts, film, music, theatre, dance, literature, discussions and architectural projects from the Arab region.
The festival was founded by Boris Johnson, the Mayor of London, and Zaha Hadid, the founder of Zaha Hadid Architects. The Shubbak Festival was last held in 2013, bringing in 50,000 attendees. This year’s festival hopes to attract an even wider audience.
As the first festival of its kind, Shubbak describes itself as “an opportunity not just for the Middle East curious, but for resident Arabs keen to learn more about their own region and share in its accomplishments.”
“Never before has the Arab world been more reported on in the media. Now is the time to hear from Arab artists who speak powerfully about what matters to them,” writes Eckhard Thiemann, Artistic Director of Shubbak, in the festival’s brochure.
Daniel Gorman co-directs the festival, and among Shubbak’s many patrons is journalist Sultan Seoud Al-Qassemi.
From Egypt, Shubbak brings El-Alfy Theatre Company, based in both Cairo and London, to perform Perdida Scott’s adaptation of The Tree Climber, directed by Ahmed El-Alfy.
Written in 1962 by iconic playwright Tawfik El-Hakim, The Tree Climber (Ya Tali El-Shagarah) is an absurdist drama and one of Hakim’s most notable works.
As part of Shubbak’s visual arts programme, Alexandrian artist Nazir Tanbouli joins the festival with a live drawing performance in two different venues, at the British Museum and outdoors during Hafla on the Square at the Chelsea Theatre.
Prominent Egyptian rock band Massar Egbari will perform in The Mix, a concert held at the closing of Shubbak’s music programme. This will be the band’s second performance in London since their debut at Shubbak’s 2013 festival.
Following Massar Egbari’s performance is the Palestinian electro-dabke band 47SOUL, and Syrian audio-visual artist Hello Psychaleppo, in addition to other audio-visual artists and DJs.
Shubbak’s literature festival will hold a discussion with four prominent cartoonists, including Egyptian artist Anwar Mohamed, who contributed to the comic magazine Tok-Tok, and Egyptian political cartoonist Tarek Shahin.
In another literary discussion titled Fiction in The Arab World, the Egyptian author of Utopia, Ahmed Khaled Tawfik, will join a panel moderated by the producer of Sindbad Sci-Fi Yasmin Khan.
The panel includes Tawfik, Ahmed Saadawi, Iraqi author of Frankenstein in Baghdad, and Hassan Abdulrazza, Iraqi playwright and author, and will explore the genre’s influence on questions of alternative futures in the Middle East.