Liverpool Arab Arts Festival 2017: the programme

The Skinny North | 19 Mar 2017

Describing it as their “most vital edition to date,” the organisers of Liverpool Arab Arts Festival have announced the programme for 2017.

From a performance in Sefton Park Palm House by Sudanese singer-songwriter Alsarah to an installation by American-Iraqi artist Wafaa Bilal and the recreation of a Tunisian streetscape in Liverpool, Liverpool Arab Arts Festival 2017 (8-16 Jul) comprises both brand new work and the return of past favourites.

Across music, visual art, dance, theatre, literature and family-friendly events, the festival aims to “support freedom of creative expression and give a voice to people and their frustrations,” and this year takes on the theme of 'The space between us'.

"Artists from the Arab diaspora push us to think radically"

“We are living in an era of dramatic change, flux and contradiction,” said the festival's chair Taher Qassim. “In some respects we live in a more open, connected and accepting world than ever before, while at home and across the globe people live in fear, and endure conflict and oppression.

“We believe in the transformational power of artistic expression, and invite all types of people, from all walks of life to experience the work of artists from the Arab diaspora, who push us to think radically and deal with a sometimes uncomfortable reality, who see the world as it is, and imagine how it could be.”

Art highlights include an ambitious restaging of visual artist Wafaa Bilal’s 168:01, an installation of white shelves filled with blank books – a 'library' that doubles as a system of exchange, inviting audiences to replace some of the 70,000 texts that were destroyed by looters at the University of Baghdad in 2003. 

Theatre highlights include And here I am by Hassan Abdulrazzak (who brought his show Love, Bombs and Apples to last year's LAAF), a bittersweet political comedy based on performer Ahmed Tobasi’s true story of his transformation from armed resistance fighter to artist, and his journey as a refugee in the West Bank to Norway and back again.

Elsewhere, one-woman show Crows Plucked Your Sinews by Hassan Mahamdallie explores the violence of empire and the poetry of resistance, based on real events and featuring the epic lyrical tradition of Somalia. 

Manchester-based Comma Press, who have a track record of identifying and commissioning writers working across the Arab world, will hold a number of events at the Bluecoat, while FACT (in partnership with Arab British Centre) will present films selected from their 2016 Safar film festival programme, including Leyla Bouzid’s directorial debut As I Open My Eyes, which explores the situation of Tunisian youth on the eve of the revolution.

For full listings, head to: arabartsfestival.com

Liverpool Arab Arts Festival 2017
8-16 July, various venues, Liverpool