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International: Shubbak grand opening-Arab arts festival in London


Published on Saturday, July 9th, 2011

Shubbak, a three-week festival of contemporary Arab culture and art has opened their doors in London. A lively and diverse art affair some of which is fueled by the ideas stirred up by countries leading the Arab world’s revolt, Egypt, Libya and Syria.

On the ground floor of London’s City Hall, a mural by Egyptian Hala Elkoussy which celebrates the opening of this unique festival. A sharp sensation of present-day Cairo is felt as Elkoussy pulls the viewer into the capital in the throes of revolution. However, as winner of last year’s Abraaj Art Prize, the piece long predates the tumultuous events of the Arab spring.

Are the art pieces political tracts? Is it right to so broadly lump together the “Arab world”? Once again, art seems to find itself at the leading edge of social and political uproar.

Instead of political messages however, the main artistic themes at Shubbak seem to be more about restless societies, a young generation of artists thinking creatively and without restrictions, bound together through global networks.

It is as if this festival of culture has the innate ability to give voice to so many of the differences within the Arab world and moreover conversely prompts people to wonder what they have in common.

This weekend, at London’s Institute of Contemporary Arts Jack Persekian, former director of the Sharjah Biennale, in the United Arab Emirates will be present as a speaker. Early this year, he was removed from his post, due to a work judged as offensive by the Algerian artist Mustapha Benfodil.

London seems to be the natural home for festivals such as Shubbak, and for the colorful discussions that they generate. The festival runs until July 24th.


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