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Fri, 23 Jun



Shubbak Festival

A breath coloured, informed, and inflected by the works of Arab and South West Asian and North African (SWANA) artists, makers and cultural practitioners.

Shubbak Festival
Shubbak Festival

Time & Location

23 Jun 2023, 19:00 – 09 Jul 2023, 19:00

London, London, UK

About the event

Full Festival Programme:

A breath coloured, informed, and inflected by the works of Arab and South West Asian and North African (SWANA) artists, makers and cultural practitioners. Those who are positioning their practice as provocation in the midst of environmental and social chaos; who, in encountering the urgent issues of today as well as those that have preoccupied us humans for millennia, refuse to shy away from discomfort. Those who take an intersectional approach and become part of a transnational wave of counterculture by virtue of challenging convention. Those who are choosing a joy, a love, a connection that digs deep when everything around us can feel atomising.

From 23 June to 9 July 2023, and together with this beautiful force that is our artistic family, we will be planting our hearts in the venues we step into, serenading London’s streets with poetry, reverting to our ancestral knowledge of storymaking as a healer, remembering what it is to play like our children, and dancing to rhythms our bodies have long held though our minds may not remember.

We open the festival with a group exhibition foregrounding the works of North African artists in a conscious act of acknowledgement and redress of the historic imbalance between the Mashreq and the Maghreb. Across the programme, we present searing commentary on the intersection of Blackness and womanhood in the Arab world, look back to move forward in somatic practice that centres the body as a site of wisdom, and bathe in the tenor of haunting voices along the river.

We will shake up the walls of comedy halls with three comediennes who tear through toxic masculinity, ableism and the corruption of the political classes with incisive humour.

In a piercing outcry to address environmental catastrophe, a tribe of Global Majority women mourn our extractive relationship to earth, while a music icon presents his solo debut on the interconnection between consumerism, mental health and environmental collapse. Young voices delve into dialogue with the land in communal foraging and mudlarking excursions and an artist takes to the soil as the stage for his artistic practice. A number of this edition’s artists are also activists - whether by choice or necessity - and with this dual role, they invite us to release, to reinvigorate, to find that hope we so yearn for.

We will mark moments in history that continue to have palpable ripple effects from the personal to the geo-political, whilst questioning the aesthetics of trauma.

A nucleus of solidarity across the region, we turn and return to Palestine again and again. We mark 75 years since the Nakba, the forced displacement of Palestinian people from their homes and land, with an electrifying dance piece on the embodiment of trauma, a cyclical play re-interpreted by a Tunisian troupe, an online residency and exhibition by a Disabled artist reflecting on life under siege, meditative collective embroidery circles, innovative permaculture from Bethlehem, and the sound of cultural defiance across a number of music gatherings and films. Twenty years since the violent and unlawful invasion of Iraq, we reflect on what it means for Iraqi artists to make work on their own terms; we feature an unprecedented participatory encounter between Kurdish artists using cutting-edge technology to cross borders, new writing from the diaspora, and an immersive journey into the world of an intelligent virus born out of war.

Shubbak is for everyone. We invite you to gravitate towards the familiar, will walk with you towards the intrigue, and together we welcome chance kinship. Our commitment to access means that our festival is making a real effort to ensure the arts become accessible for all, with our website being powered by Alt-text, BSL interpretation provided, relaxed performances across much of our programme, and ensuring all our venues are physically accessible. We have several free events, a pay-what-you-can sliding price scale across many others and our free ticket scheme continues, enhanced with childcare provision this year. If you’re of no/low income and cannot afford a ticket, get in touch.

Shubbak Festival 2023 comes from a place of abundance, and so on several occasions we will feast together. No matter your creed, belief, background, join us - rest, play, feast, dance. And breathe. We lovingly take up space with the conviction that our narratives are legitimate without need for greatness nor ceremonious acts, in the deep knowledge that the value is in our coming together.

This is Shubbak, where Arab cultures connect us all.

The Shubbak Team

Alia Alzougbi and Taghrid Choucair-Vizoso Joint CEOs, Shubbak Festival

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