- Title: UNITED KINGDOM: London poetry festival focuses on Arab verse
- Date: 8th November 2010
- Summary: LONDON, ENGLAND, UNITED KINGDOM (NOVEMBER 5, 2010) (REUTERS) AUDIENCE TAKING THEIR SEATS BEFORE PERFORMANCE WOMAN READING PROGRAMME IN AUDIENCE RACHEL HOLMES, HEAD OF LITERATURE AT SOUTHBANK CENTRE, TAKING HER SEAT
- Embargoed: 23rd November 2010 12:00
- Location: United Kingdom, United Kingdom
- Country: United Kingdom
- Topics: Arts / Culture / Entertainment / Showbiz
- Reuters ID: LVA5RXMX2LMZCUJLF6ETI3U6VTN3
- Story Text: The audience gathered at the Southbank Centre on the banks of London's River Thames, was treated to U.S.- Palestinian poet Suheir Hammad, known for her Palestinian narratives, and a Ramallah based audio-visual group Tashweesh.
It was the first time for Hammad and Tashweesh to work together with Hammad herself travelling from Brooklyn in the U.S and Tashweesh making their journey to the United Kingdom from Ramallah.
The artists were taking part in Poetry International 2010, a biennial poetry event.
This year's event focussed on poets and poetry from the Middle East, with Hammad and Tashweesh being amongst those invited to take part in the international cultural exchange.
Festival organisers said the event provides a platform for those who don't usually showcase their work to a non-Arab audience.
Rachel Holmes was behind the theme of 'Imaging Peace' something she says applies to people in Britain as well as to communities in the Middle East, ''The other motivation and inspiration for the festival was thinking about the experience of being at war and in a condition of war as we are here in Britain, but not living in, with the war, not being in immediately affected in our day to day lives by the war. And I think that's one of the most profound. profoundly alienating experiences, and so different to the experiences and the war poetry that was generated in different wars, where there is occupation and the bombs are falling on our back gardens and in our streets,'' said Holmes before Suheir Hammad and Tashweesh took to the stage.
The Middle East has a long and famous poetic tradition from pre-Islamic times right up until the poets of today like Palestinian poets Mouhit and Tamim Barghouti and Iraqi poet Nabeel Yasin.
Holmes said it was her experience at the Palestinian Festival of Literature, Palfest, that inspired her to celebrate poets from the Middle East and their works.
''One of the reasons that we've done this festival is that within an Arab context of an Arab culture, and I don't just mean within national boundaries. But poetry is so much part of everything and is so much embedded in the practice of everyday life, and that is as true in Brooklyn as it is in Bethlehem. Whereas the way that literature or poetry is understood in other traditions, it's not quite so suffusive. Now for the poets who are here, of course because they're all poets that is what motivates their lives. But I think what we're trying to do is to show how absolutely central this great tradition is,'' said Holmes.
Taking to the stage reciting her lines, Hammad performed her published verses alongside the music and imagery of Tashweesh .
She said there are no messages in her work, but it's up to the audience to decide what it's about. But she did say that she was happy to be invited to the festival to take part as an artist, ''I'm really thankful for the festival. It's not really a highlight anytime Palestinians are included it becomes an either a political or somehow a decision one has to defend. So to be invited and not have that to be a part of the conversation, to be invited for your work, you know, it's an honour that we deserve as working artists. So we're very happy to be here,'' said Hammad.
Audio-Visual group Tashweesh whose imagery lit up the dark auditorium use images and music to make their art.
The group's name means 'interference' in Arabic or 'to unsettle' in Urdu.
They work together in a group made up of installation artists Ruanne Abou-Rahme and Basel Abbass, as well as composer and producer MC Boikutt.
Their work isn't poetic in an obvious form of the written word, but they say it's poetic due its abstract and metaphorical nature.
Based in Ramallah, MC Boikutt said it's their environment that inspires what they produce, ''I think what gives us the most inspiration is the situation that we're living in, it makes us receive and give off a message. You know there's a necessity for one to express themselves, to speak about what's in your head, and what's also in your heart, and that's where it comes from,'' he said.
Their collaborative performance had the audience applauding and cheering, and their work touched on popular culture like that of Egyptian singer Abdel Halim Hafiz as well as political events and family history.
The festival was founded in London in 1967 by poet Ted Hughes, now in it's 21st year, organisers say it's attracting a large and diverse crowd.
Poets from more than 30 countries are taking part in the festival, with some travelling from Iraq and Syria.
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