Nour 2016 Opens Its Doors

Thoughtful and thought-provoking. Engaging and entertaining. The annual Nour Festival of Arts is back for its seventh year, having opened on Friday 21 October and running until Sunday 6 November.

With over 40 events and 84 individual performances across 16 venues with 28 partners, artists from 15 countries present their work across visual arts, music, poetry, theatre, film, dance, and literature.

Highlights from the 2016 festival programme include:

French-Algerian artist Katia Kameli’s first solo exhibition in the UK, What Language Do You Speak Stranger? at The Mosaic Rooms is a remarkable and timely examination of national identity, exploring the power of storytelling.

The European premiere of choreographer Salah El Brogy’s new piece, GLITCH, at the Chelsea Theatre looks into the state of mind of what it feels like not being able to access your own memories.

A double-bill double-UK premiere musical performance at the Tabernacle: the three brothers, Osama, Basil and Elia, who together form The Khoury Project, fusing classical Arabic music with genres including opera, flamenco, Celtic, Indian, and jazz. And French-Lebanese singer Ellene Masri’ performing tracks from her critically-acclaimed debut album Music.

The events in the Nour Festival programme are accompanied by a broad and engaging Creative Learning Programme, featuring a series of exciting projects and activities with local community groups and schools: from fan design to kite-making, Arabic typography to Arabian Nights, and has been particularly supported by Westway Trust.

As the official UK partner for Kuwait Capital of Islamic Culture 2016, and working in collaboration with the Kuwait National Council for Culture, Art and Letters and the British Council in Kuwait, Nour introduces a selection of artists from the region, Visual artist Ali Alzaidi presents his work at West Bank Gallery; Q80Tone bring the sounds of Kuwaiti to the Tabernacle; and Nuqat offers us the opportunity to explore and learn the Arabic language through graphic communication design and Arabic typography.

Join us in person or online; on social media #NourFestival, through the commentary on the Nour blog, and up-to-date with the events as they unfold on http://www.nourfestival.co.uk

A festival for all, so above all, #Share Your Nour

Nour welcomes 2016 Guest Music Curator

Nour Festival of Arts is delighted to welcome Aser El Saqqa as guest music curator for the 2016 programme. A hugely experienced programmer, Aser is also founder and director of Arts Canteen, an organisation that shares Nour’s own objective of supporting emerging artists from the Middle East to bring their work to new UK audiences. From his earliest days working for the Ministry of Culture in his native Palestine, to his work through Arts Canteen – with such diverse partners as the Arab British Centre, Shubbak Festival, Eid on the Square (Mayor of London), The London African Music Festival, the Liverpool Arab Arts Festival, EFG London Jazz Festival, and Rich Mix – Aser believes in providing space for stirring the arts, to facilitate the exchange of art and ideas across social and geographical boundaries.

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As Aser says: “Many artists from the Arab World face almost insurmountable difficulties in creating and displaying their work, and so I’m excited to work with Nour Festival to provide a platform for them to gain exposure, while also bringing enjoyable and enriching experiences to new audiences.”

Welcome Aser, we’re looking forward to an exciting, eclectic mix of music artists in this year’s programme.

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The Nour International Call for Artist Submissions closes on Friday 8 April, with the Nour 2016 programme announced to the public in September.

The Elephant in the Kitchen: Cooking up a Storm at Al-Hasaniya Moroccan Women’s Centre

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Image credit: Jalaikon

From the 26 – 30 October 2015, a diverse group of 12 women from Al-Hasaniya Moroccan Women’s Centre, worked alongside chef Mike Knowlden and storyteller Surya Turner to exchange recipes and cook new dishes from around the world.

Each day, the group cooked a new dish; from a starter on Monday through to a delicious dessert on Thursday. On Friday the final day, the group prepared a feast with favourite dishes and exchanged stories of celebration.

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Image credit: Jalaikon

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Image credit: Jalaikon

Throughout the week,  cherished food memories and favourite recipes were shared, while the food being prepared included soda bread, sushi, an Asian salad, a Yemini fish rice dish, quiche and a sumptuous pistachio trifle.

On the last day, the group reflected on the experiences throughout the week. The women particularly enjoyed working with a professional chef and storyteller, and felt more confident in practising their English and also gained new ideas on how to cook new healthy and fresh dishes. They also loved learning about different cultures and getting to know other local ladies from places like Yemen, Egypt, Morocco, Eritrea, Syria and Lebanon.

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Image credit: Joanna Patulot

Irish Soda Bread Recipe:

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Image credit: Joanna Patulot

Ingredients

  • 250g plain white flour
  • 250g plain wholemeal flour
  • 100g porridge oats
  • 1 tsp bicarbonate of soda
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 25g butter, cut in pieces
  • 500ml buttermilk or yoghurt & milk

Method

Preheat the oven to 200C/gas 6/fan 180C and dust a baking sheet with flour. Mix the dry ingredients in a large bowl, then rub in the butter. Pour in the buttermilk and mix it in quickly with a table knife, then bring the dough together very lightly with your fingertips (handle it very, very gently). Now shape it into a flat, round loaf

Put the loaf on the baking sheet and score a deep cross in the top. (Traditionally, this lets the fairies out, but it also helps the bread to cook through.) Bake for 30-35 minutes until the bottom of the loaf sounds hollow when tapped.

Stvdio El Sham :: MMX-MMXV: An Interview with Tarek Moukaddem & Omarivs Ioseph Filivs Dinæ

Stvdio El Sham :: MMX-MMXV is the first photographic exhibition showcasing the collaborative work between Lebanese photographer Tarek Moukaddem and Palestinian designer Omarivs Ioseph Filivs Dinæ.  In this interview the artists talk to guest blogger Aimee Dawson about their exhibition and ongoing artistic collaboration.


Omarivs Ioseph Filivs Dinæ and Tarek Moukaddem for Nour Festival of Arts

Abu Saleh, The Official Portrait © Omarivs Ioseph Filivs Dinæ & Tarek Moukaddem 

The three collections of works in your exhibition really show a process of development as each work inspires the next.  They also show the story of your creative collaboration, which began in 2009, bringing together designer and photographer.

O: Each of the works has been shown in different formats at different venues internationally but this is the first time they have been shown altogether as framed photographic prints – as artworks if you will.  And I think the relationship between photography and performance/pretence can be traced through each.

Can you say something about The Official Portrait – what was the inspiration behind this work?

O: The Official Portrait is the final production phase of The Ceremonial Vniform project, in which I set out to create an imaginary uniform for the imaginary Palestinian state.  The project was a response to, and critique of, the Palestinian National Authority’s (PNA) 2011 bid for membership of the United Nations and the consequentl (defeatist) acceptance of the 1967 borders for the future State of Palestine.

The Palestinian authority is obsessed with creating symbols of Palestinian nationality and statehood at the expense of liberation and emancipation.  The uniform in this work is the manifestation of this ridiculous compromise – all the same, it’s not a caricature.  There is a parody to the work, there is something funny and cynical about it; however, it is not about emasculation or diminishing the actual men within the images.  The design work and research are very serious, perhaps even more serious than the actual statehood bid which the PNA is so obsessed with – that is where the irony and mockery of the Palestinian political establishment lies.

Omarivs Ioseph Filivs Dinæ and Tarek Moukaddem for Nour Festival of Arts

Abu Zuhair, The Official Portrait © Omarivs Ioseph Filivs Dinæ and Tarek Moukaddem

Could you explain your process behind taking the images for Stvdio El Sham [MMXIII – MMIII]?

T: I consider Stvdio El Sham [MMXIII – MMIII] more of an ongoing experiment than a project.  It came at a time when selfies were becoming very popular, and taking a picture of oneself has become very mundane and something that is too easy and quick to do.  From my perspective as a photographer, I wanted to see if we could change the experiences of some people by putting them in a different context altogether.  So we attempted to set up a photographic space that felt more like an old photographic studio set with an abundance of clothing and props to see how they might react differently and how they would present and represent themselves in such context.  It was playful, about self-reflection and self-portrayal; how you see photography; and how you perceive yourself through photography if you have an altogether different concept of time and resources to do it.

O: In the past, our collaborative projects have been about me showing my work by seeking Tarek’s support as an accomplished photographer.  In the Stvdio El Sham [MMX – MMXV] exhibition I wanted to show how the image making was really about both of us: both of our technical abilities combined to create images, as glimpses into an imagined reality.  We are both very particular technicians who understand our mediums very well and know our own abilities and limitations.  I consider myself a designer and never an artist.  Indeed, it is almost insulting for me to be considered an artist as that reflects a vague notion of skill and understanding of one’s medium as opposed to design.  Anyone could be an artist, but few could claim to be a painter, sculptor, draughtsman or photographer.  All of these require a true mastery of design and a sensory understanding of material to begin with.  Concepts are altogether irrelevant if they are not inherently supported by their material mediums. So many pseudo intellectuals writing and theorising, claiming to be conceptual artists are indeed nothing but ‘con-artists’!

Omarivs Ioseph Filivs Dinæ and Tarek Moukaddem for Nour Festival of Arts

Paper V, Silk Thread Martyrs © Omarivs Ioseph Filivs Dinæ and Tarek Moukaddem

Who were the people in the images and what was it like working with them? Was there a negotiation with them in creating the photos?

T: I know most of them but not all of them closely.  We put out an open call inviting people to come to the studio and some of them were friends and some of them were random.  It was very playful – we didn’t want to make too many rules but we wanted it to still have an old studio style.  We had a lot of props and so they could make their own choices but they also asked us for our opinion.  So it was more of a collaboration.

O: In the exhibition there is little information about the sitters beside the images.  When you are trying to explain the person in the photo it defeats the purpose of the image-making.  We want it to be about the image in and of itself, not literature or history.

Why did you choose to only photograph males in this latest work?

T: We were looking at gender issues and the way that the male is represented in Arab societies, and especially in our own societies; challenging the idea of the ‘macho’ stereotype.  Most of my photography work focuses on the male body.  I think there is a lot of focus on the female body of the ‘Orient’ and the issue of veiling and so on – there is comparatively little photography of men.

O: It is simply more honest or genuine, as two males, to photograph other males.  It makes sense for us to represent bodies that are familiar and ‘phenomenologically’ relevant to us.  We are not looking to represent anyone other than ourselves.

Omarivs Ioseph Filivs Dinæ and Tarek Moukaddem for Nour Festival of Arts

Joe, Stvdio El Sham [MMXIII – MMIII] © Omarivs Ioseph Filivs Dinæ and Tarek Moukaddem

What other things have you been working on recently?

O: I was in Beirut this summer researching and working on a project as part of my MA in Social Anthropology on Palestinian embroidery techniques with INAASH (Association for the Development of Palestinian Camps in Lebanon).  The project is called Fifteen [XV] Stitches Embroidery Project.  The aim is to identify and understand the techniques of different Palestinian Bedouin and peasant embroidery stitches and to try and push them further than the tedious and overrated cross-stitch, which is mere surface embroidery and ornamental.  This was already done in Palestine with a great aunt of mine and in collaboration with Sunbula, an NGO based in Jerusalem in 2010. In Beirut I was, and will be in the near future, sharing these techniques with the Palestinian Refugee women embroiderers who work with INAASH.

Omarivs Ioseph Filivs Dinæ and Tarek Moukaddem for Nour Festival of Arts

Najaf IV, Silk Thread Martyrs © Omarivs Ioseph Filivs Dinæ and Tarek Moukaddem

I consider the cross-stitch the most superficial and mundane part of the rural Palestinian dress system – there’s a lot more which is functional and structural that reflects true design and the diversity of a complex society.  My belief is that Palestinian dress, or Palestinian costume as it is widely known, has been reduced to ornamental embroidery by the Palestinian intelligentsia, artists and urban middle classes, who are anxious to justify the Palestinian cause on nationalist narratives and ideas of authenticity by creating symbols and images around which contemporary Palestinians can rally.  All this, some serious and scholarly work on the subject by international and Palestinian researchers notwithstanding.  I am more interested in design and functionality and how form is the product of technique influenced by local sensibilities and nuance – how such techniques are made and themselves actively make the individual.

Stvdio El Sham :: MMX-MMXV was on show at The Muse At 269 Gallery/Studio in London until 8 November, as part of Nour Festival of Arts 2015.