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Shubbak: A Window on Contemporary Arab Culture

Updated: Jun 18, 2019

Between 28 June and 14 July, London will welcome the 2019 edition of the Shubbak: A Window on Contemporary Arab Culture festival. Founded in 2011 by the Mayor of London, Shubbak festival works towards the promotion of contemporary Arab culture in visual arts, films, music, theatre, dance, literature and live talks.

This year, the Institut français supports the participation of three young artists who explore various aspects of Arab identity; from gender and feminism to dual-identity.

French-Moroccan Prix Goncourt Leila Slimani, whose novels Lullaby and Adèle have encountered great critical and popular success, will be in conversation with Inaam Kachachi and other writers to discuss Arab feminism and the condition of women in the Middle East - a topic Slimani masters as she used to work as a journalist of the Maghreb and wrote Sexe et Mensonges: La Vie Sexuelle au Maroc ("Sex and Lies: Sex Life in Morocco"), a compilation of her work in Northern Africa and the Maghreb. This work generated much debate on the compatibility between Western and intersectional feminism, and the Western gaze on the situation of women elsewhere.

Comics-writer Joseph Kai, whose work focuses on marginalised community, gender identity and taboos, will join poet Dima Mikhayel Matta and Amrou Al-Kadhi for a talk on "New Queer Writing". After the success of the 2017 panel, the Bold Voices collective will one more put the spotlight on LGBT+ creative expression. It will also be an opportunity for the artists to talk of their conception of art and politics, and their relation to activism.

Born in Lebanon, Kai started out as a pianist before turning to illustration and joining the collective Samandal Comics. His works are concerned with queer culture: Bros is about two young men coming to terms with their homosexual attraction while Sissies is the story of an artist discovering Beyruth.

Iraqui writer Inaam Kachachi will be part of a panel on contemporary Arab historical novels and their role in the reshaping of the past. Kachachi's novels about contemporary Iraqi history have been shortlisted twice (first Heat Springs in 2005, and then The American Granddaughter in 2009) for the International Prize for Arabic Fiction. Born in Bagdad in 1952, Kachachi worked as a journalist in Baghdad before moving to Paris to complete a PhD at the Sorbonne. She is the Paris correspondent for London-based newspaper Asharq Al-Awsat and Kol Al-Usra magazine in Sharjah, UAE. She has written a biography of British journalist Lorna Hales, who was married to Iraqi scuptor Jawad Salim, but also a novel about Iraqi women's literature. Her latest novel Tashari was also shortlisted for the International Prize for Arabic Fiction in 2014.

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