From Um Kalthoum to Fairouz to Dalida: Paris to celebrate Arab divas

Ahram Online , Monday 15 Feb 2021

Exhibition paying tribute to Arab divas of music and film will open at Paris' Arab World Institute in March


'Divas: From Um Kalthoum to Dalida', an exhibition commemorating famed Arab songstresses and actresses, will launch at the Institut du Monde Arabe (Arab World Institute) in Paris on 3 March and continue until 25 July.

The exhibition will showcase photographs, newspaper clips, vinyl covers and posters featuring Um Kalthoum, Dalida, Fairouz, Soad Hosny, Sabah, Samia Gamal, Laila Mourad, Warda, Asmahan, Hind Rostom, among other iconic female artists of the 1920s to 1970s.

"The exhibition is intended to be a fabulous journey into the heart of lives and of the art of these legendary singers and actresses, but also an exploration of the profound changes they have brought about," reads the information released by the Institute.


"Timeless icons, powerful women, symbols adored in post-war Arab societies, these divas with exceptional careers spanning from Cairo to Beirut, from the [Arab] Maghreb to Paris, embody a period of artistic and intellectual effervescence, a new image of women, as well as the national political renewal that was expressed from the early 1920s - particularly in Egypt - until the 1970s."

The organisers clarify that through those divas, the exhibition aims to highlight "the social history of Arab women and the birth of feminism within these patriarchal societies, their participation in pan-Arabism and the struggles for independence in the contexts of colonization and decolonization, and - above all - their central role in the various artistic fields that they have helped to revolutionise."


The work will be exhibited on 1,000 square m area, walking the viewer through the four stages of the divas’ histories, the first three segments focusing on the avant-garde feminist women in cosmopolitan Cairo of the 1920s, then the golden voices of the 1940s through to the 1970s and the musicals in Egyptian film productions of the past decades.

The fourth segment will showcase the views of today's artists on these divas. Among the attractions of this segment is the screening of a 2017 film Looking for Um Kulthum about the Egyptian diva Um Kalthoum. The film is directed by Shoja Azari and Shirin Neshat, starring Yasmine Raess.

The exhibition was set to open in January but due to the Covid-19 pandemic the date was moved to 3 March.


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