London’s epic Arab Women Artists Now Festival

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Celebrating its sixth year and coinciding with International Women’s Day on Sunday March 8, Arab Women Artists Now (AWAN) festival will be hosting a rich programme of visual art, music, theatre, comedy, spoken word, panel discussions and workshops by contemporary Arab women artists.

London venues taking part include Rich Mix, The Arab British Centre, The Book Club and the Queen of Hoxton – each just a stone’s throw away from the City of London.

The festival aims to increase understanding around Arab women’s diverse realities and concerns, while providing a more nuanced narrative surrounding the Arab region and its peoples. Here are just a few of their events running from 5-29 March.

ART / Imagining Afrabia

In this exhibition, Sudanese British artist/designer Rayan ElNayal explores Sudanese and Afro-Arab design, architecture and history through a unique realist perspective. It journeys through time and space to uncover long lost cities. ElNayal’s work is heavily influenced by the novel ‘Season of Migration to the North’ by the great Sudanese writer Tayeb Salith and the works of Sudanese artist, Ibrahim El Salahi, founder of the Khartoum School.
5-29 March, free
Rich Mix, 35-47 Bethnal Green Road E1 6LA

PERFORMANCE / Decolonise the Dancefloor

At the crossroad of multiple disciplines and identities, Habibitch is building herself an art practice as woke as she is. Using spaces from the Ballroom Scene to feminist and institutional stages to express her North-African queer decolonial self. Her performances are always intersectional – Decolonize the Dance Floor for example, a danced conference she’s been touring internationally for two years. Dancing her politics and politicising her dance, here is the life motto of your favourite Habibitch.
6 March, 6pm, tickets £5
Rich Mix, 35-47 Bethnal Green Road E1 6LA

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We are most looking forward to Habibitch’s performance

FILM / Afternoon Films & Talks

The full day programme includes several short films and a screening including * “The Man Behind the Microphone” a documentary about the famous Tunisian singer, Hédi Jouini, known as the “Frank Sinatra of Tunisia” and the premiere screening of “Under Multiple Suns” written and Directed by Lebanese Director Helene Kazan. The day provides a chance to meet other like minded film fans and participate in a live Q+A discussion with Btisam Akarkach (artistic programmer of MONA Film Festival and Malikka Bouaissa (founder AL.ARTE, coordinator MONA Film Festival). Through films and documentaries, MONA contributes to an open, new take on the region and a more balanced view of the Amazigh, Arab, Turkish, Kurdish and Iranian world and diaspora. The panel will be discussing a number of practical concerns as addressing roles for women both in front of and behind the scene in the film festivals in Europe.
8 March, 12.30-5pm, tickets £5
Rich Mix, 35-47 Bethnal Green Road E1 6LA

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COMEDY / Arabs are not funny

Arabs Are Not Funny is widely regarded as one of the hottest comedy nights among the Arab community and beyond. Comedians with roots in the Arab world attempt to prove the naysayers wrong!  Featuring Lebanese British Isabelle Farah, Tunisian Swiss Leila Ladari, Moroccan Laila Alj, Bahraini British Jenna Al Ansari and Belgian Tunisian Serine Ayari.
13 March 8.30pm, tickets £12
Rich Mix, 35-47 Bethnal Green Road E1 6LA

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Arabs are not funny is always a right laugh

LITERATURE / Tharwa She Said

Across the globe, popular uprisings are uniting people calling for reform and change. With borders being broken by a common thread of justice, how do we find individual voices that bring us altogether? At the Book Club in Shoreditch, Young Shubbak, a new collective of 16-25 year old artists, curators, producers and creatives present a night of eruptive and moving spoken word along with short films from Lebanon, Syria, Palestine, Egypt and more, reflecting on the intimate moments of resistance within a time of great revolution. Founded in 2011 Shubbak is Europe’s largest biennial festival of contemporary Arab culture.
24 March, 7pm, tickets £5
The Book Club, 100-106 Leonard Street EC2A 4RH

WORKSHOP / Art Writing

This 90-minute workshop is aimed at aspiring young writers, artists and art enthusiasts who want to refine their writing skills and learn more about the art writing industry. The class will go through the writing process from start to finish including finding and pitching ideas; developing and structuring a story; and promoting and maximising on your content.n The workshop will focus on writing about art and culture from the Middle East, looking carefully at popular artists and recurring themes as well as important things to consider and pitfalls to avoid. Despite the regional focus, the skills taught in this workshop are broadly applicable to all areas of visual art.
19 March, 5pm, tickets £10
Arab British Centre, 1 Gough Square EC4A 3DE

MUSIC / Sahrana

Discover the works of ground-breaking female artists from the MENA Diaspora. It is an evening showcasing poetic artistry, immersive visuals and breakthrough DJ’s providing ground-shaking blends of Arabic and UK music from the past and present. Start the night surrounded by rare musical gems of the past donated by Dardisku Records, engage in the stories delivered by award-winning spoken word artists through poetry, video and song, before transforming the dance floor into an evening experience of nostalgic sounds.
25 March, 8pm, tickets £7.00
Queen of Hoxton, 1-5 Curtain Road EC2A 3JX

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Sahrana take over the Queen of Hoxton for one night only on 25 March

Lead Image: Oum El Ghait who is performing at Rich Mix on 29 March.
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