Shubbak Festival Puts the Spotlight on Female Saudi Artists

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When it comes to putting the Arab world in the spotlight, Shubbak Festival never disappoints. The biannual event is now in its sixth edition, bringing contemporary Arab culture to London like never before. From Casablanca to Riyadh, the festival tapped into the region’s biggest talents this year. 

 “Shubbak 2021 celebrates the creativity and voices of Arab artists and takes you right into the heart of cultural expression in the Arab world and its diaspora,” said artistic director Eckhard Thiemann in an interview.

“With a wide range of performance venues in London and an extensive network of international locations from Slemani to Casablanca, from Cairo to Riyadh, this year’s festival programme transcends the borders of all our previous editions,” he continued. 

As part of this year’s programme, Shubbak is putting the focus on Saudi women in an exhibition, set to take place both physically and online, with the concept of movement in mind. 

The exhibition, entitled ‘Image & Movement’ sees the artists create works—each using their distinct approach—to investigate the human body as an expressive tool. The show includes works by Ahaad Alamoud, Balqis Al Rashed, Sarah Brahim and Marwah AlMugait. 

Alamoudi’s piece ‘Those Who Don’t Know Falcons Grill Them’ will be on display. The work—a music video—sees a cohort of male dancers performing Khabayti, a traditional Saudi Arabian dance originating in the Kingdom’s west coast. 

The choreographed dance, which was historically used in preparation for war and now largely performed during social gatherings (by women as well, at segregated women-only events), is appropriated by Alamoudi whose male subjects don custom-made garments patterened with falcons. 

Balqis Al Rashed presents a piece titled ‘A State of Play’, a video series investigating preconceived notions of womanhood, identity, and public exposure. Al Rashed’s piece was featured on Instagram’s official page in 2016, making her the first Saudi artist to be featured on the social media’s account. 

In partnership with phographer Mohammad Alfarj, artist Sarah Brahim also takes part of the show, showcasing a piece called ‘The Dance of the Olive Tree in the Wind.’ Marwah AlMugait presents a video titled ‘I Lived Once’ which sees choreographers LAmees AlSaddique and Jawaher AlRefaei take on moves inspired by the ‘shimmering’ of honeybees and Mimosa Pudica’s signature ‘touch me not’ folding movement, ultimately pointing to alternative structures to the typical order of human society.  

 

 

Main image: I Lived Once, Marwah AlMugait, 2020

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