Shubbak: London’s Summer of Arabic Arts

Arabic calligraphy art by Noureddine Daifallah

Artwork by Noureddine Daifallah

London has a sizeable Arabic population, and a few areas of high density (the area around Edgware Road is the best known, with a long established Arabic community). So it’s surprising to find out that the Shubbak festival this month is London’s first ever Arabic arts festival.

The festival of contemporary Arabic arts will take place in 30 different venues across the city, and encompass literature, film, visual art, music, performance and discussions – and promises to be a fascinating window onto Arabic culture for all Londoners, Arabs and non-Arabs alike.

As London-based journalist Nahla Al-Ageli puts it:

London has for many years been fully engaged with the deeper exchange of cultural, artistic and sometimes even political understanding between the Arab world and Britain… [Shubbak] is an opportunity not just for the Middle Eastern curious, but for resident Arabs keen to learn more about their own region and share in its accomplishments.

At WorldAccent, the manager of our typesetting studio told me that he was interested in seeing Khatt, an exhibition of contemporary Arabic calligraphy by Moroccan Noureddine Daifallah, and a double-bill of modern Arabic dance at the Lilian Baylis Theatre. “I’m interested in calligraphy and choreography,” he explained, “so those were the events I homed in on.”

Calligraphy and choreography? At first I thought: that’s an unusual combination. But then he went on to explain: the cursive, fluid letterforms of Arabic calligraphy seem almost to be in motion – they make you think of rhythm, stress and flow. For him, Arabic calligraphy seems to have the spirit of dance within it.

Flow and continuity seem inherent in Arabic script – and of course, that has made the development of Arabic typesetting systems much more difficult that for scripts based on separate letterforms. But these qualities are integral to the beauty of the script.

Shubbak: A Window on Contemporary Arab Culture takes place at various locations across London from 4 July until 24 July 2011. TimeOut London have produced a handy guide to the festival [PDF]

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