Arab festival puts on refugee puppet show, culture events in London

The London-based Nour Festival is set to showcase a line-up of contemporary art and cultural events hailing from the Middle East

Nabila Pathan
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With a day to go, one of Europe’s internationally acclaimed festivals – the London-based Nour Festival - looks set to showcase an impressive line-up of contemporary art and cultural events hailing from the Middle East and North Africa.

With themes of migration, loss and identity at the heart of this year’s program, 36 events will be taking place, alongside 84 individual performances, across 16 venues in London.


In celebrating the best of contemporary arts and culture emerging from MENA, artists from 15 countries will be presenting their work across visual arts, music, poetry, theatre, film, dance and literature.

Amongst the highlights this year the first UK solo exhibition of the French-Algerian multi-media artist Katia Kameli “What Language Do You Speak Stranger?” will be performed at the Mosaic Rooms. It examines a timely look into national identity through storytelling.

There is also a UK premier performance by the Arab Puppet Theatre Foundation from Lebanon, that use humor, magic and satire as a means to consider the burden of migration and exile. Much of the props and sets have been derived from items typically found in a refugee’s rucksack.

The festival is coordinated each year by the Arts Service at Kensington and Chelsea Council in London.

Speaking about the organization of the festival, Suzel Pitty, curator of the Nour Festival of Arts, spoke to Al Arabiya English this week a head of the launch date:

“The journey to the finished program starts as soon as the previous year’s festival ends, although a key step each year is the international call for submissions from arts organizations and artists. The response is always impressive across all art forms.”

She goes on to add: “Nour neither requires or professes a yearly theme for artists to respond to, preferring the natural emergence of current issues and interests. What we stress first and foremost is that Nour is an annual celebration of the best in contemporary art and culture from across the MENA region.

“Unsurprisingly over the last three years, issues of migration and identity have been an overwhelming consideration for artists working in the region and beyond. These can be raw but beautiful reflections, like the moving performances from the ‘Syria Speaks’ anthology as part of last year’s festival, to this year’s deeply touching through humor with the Arab Puppet Theatre Foundation’s Performance ‘Desperately in Need of an Audience’,” which runs on Oct. 22 and 23.

“Our guiding principle for the program each year remains its contemporary excellence, it is thought-provoking, often challenging nature, and its appeal to our audiences, local, national and international.”

Interest in contemporary Middle Eastern art continues to expand as the sub-market becomes one of the fastest growing in the art world. According to Culture Trip, “the rising popularity of Middle Eastern artists could be down to the acceptance of an audience willing to understand the turmoil endured in the region or the artists desire to give a firsthand account of what goes on in the countries.

“Either way, audiences are responding to the sought after Middle Eastern art exhibitions and collections which are expanding across London.”

From a pioneering arts education program based at Leighton House Museum, Nour Festival has grown into the all-encompassing internationally acclaimed contemporary cultural festival today, reaching diverse local, national and international audiences.

The live audience is complemented by the festival’s huge digital following, with the Nour Blog becoming ever more popular.

The Nour Festival runs until November 6 this year.



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