Biennial News United Kingdom

London festival embraces Arab culture

Second edition, backed by Qatar Museums Authority, closes with a three-day celebration

Ibrahim El-Salahi

The second edition of London’s festival on contemporary Arab culture, Shubbak (meaning “window” in Arabic) closes 6 July with two events: a three-day Ehtifal (“celebration”, 4-6 July) festival, co-organised by the Serpentine gallery and Qatar Museums Authority, and a retrospective dedicated to the 83-year-old Sudanese artist: “Ibrahim El-Salahi: A Visionary Modernist” at Tate Modern (3 July-22 September).

The 15-day festival has synchronised a wide-ranging programme of Arab fine art, theatre, music, literature and architecture. Its artists, representing 16 Arab nations, range from the underground and experimental, including Soraya Syed and Hanaa Malallah, to the well-established, including Saloua Raouda Choucair and Boushra Almutawakel.

El-Salahi will be speaking at Ehtifal’s first event on 4 July, “Pop-up Mathaf: Mapping Arab Literature in London”. The programme is jointly developed by Mathaf, the Arab Museum of Modern Art that opened in 2010 in Doha, and the Serpentine's Edgware Road Project, a five-year-old residency that links local residents with international artists.

Deena Chalabi, the curator of the pop-up Mathaf series, says: “The concept of mapping Arab London has been developed in consultation with artists and the Edgware Project curators over a period of time, and when I was invited to do the pop-up, it was an opportunity to turn it into a reality."

Chalabi adds: “El-Salahi is a very important artist who is a wonderful addition to a panel on Arab literary London because of his collaboration with [the late Sudanese author] Tayeb Salih on one of the book covers for 'Season of Migration to the North', the quintessential modern Arab novel. But especially because El-Salahi has been witness to the ongoing exchange between London and the Arab world.”

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