2013 has been a year rich in arts and culture festivals – Alchemy, Shubbak, the London Indian Film Festival (to name but a tiny few) – each surpassed the last in variety, depth, colour and inspiration. The latest culture-shot to hit London is the Nour Festival, a two-month long celebration of contemporary Middle Eastern and North African arts and culture, which offers a seriously exciting line-up of film, theatre, dance, literature, shopping, music and food – perhaps, maybe the best yet! The programme includes over 60 events – many of them free. We’ve risked sensory overload to trawl through the luscious programme to bring you some highlights.
Natacha Atlas – Saturday 12 October, Royal Albert Hall
The legendary Natacha Atlas needs no introduction. Hugely popular in the Middle Eastern, French and global music scene, her music spans the spectrum of Arabic pop, North-African beats, and more soulful acoustic melodies. Don’t miss her performance at the Royal Albert Hall’s Elgar Rooms with her seven-piece band.
Prophetic Children – Sunday 27 October, Ismaili Centre
Fathieh Saudi’s 2012 book ‘Prophetic Children’ is the inspiration for this poetic and musical performance tracing the lives of the four great Prophets – Ibrahim (Abraham), Musa (Moses), Isa (Jesus) and Muhammad. The performance will weave four narrative poems into music to tell these all-important life stories, starting from the Prophets’ births to their individual moment of revelation.
4th London Iranian Film Festival – 2 November – 10 November, Cine Lumiere
The London Iranian Film Festival returns to London with a spectacular listing. Top of the list has to be Asghar Farhadi’s (of ‘The Separation’ fame) latest work and Iran’s official Oscar entry ‘The Past’ (or ‘Le Passé) which won Bérénice Béjo (The Artist) the Best Actress Award at this year’s Cannes Festival. There’s ‘The Snow on the Pines’, a film about a young piano teacher whose marriage falls into crisis, and who starts to understand life differently with the help of a young musician. ‘Meeting Leila’ is a romantic comedy about a young woman who tries to persuade her fiancé, a creative and chain-smoker (both inextricably linked) – to quit smoking. Also look out for ‘The Wedlock’, ‘I am his Wife’, and ‘Nowhere Nobody’.
Nour Bus Tour – Saturday 9 November, various locations
There’s a bus tour! A specially curated tour aboard the Nour Festival Routemaster bus will provide a unique perspective on the diversity of Arab art displayed in Kensington and Chelsea. On board a DJ will spin Middle-Eastern tunes (a DJ! On a bus! Playing Middle Eastern music! Too cool!), and at each stop, a private guided tour will be provided by venue managers. Stops will include the Victoria & Albert Museum, the Ismaili Centre and the Leighton House Museum, A complimentary drink and mezze platter will also be served on board.
Al Souk at Nour Festival -14 November – 1 December, Graffik Gallery and The Tabernacle (Gallery)
Described as ‘London’s very first pop-up Arab Arts and Crafts Boutique’, Al Souk will bring to Notting Hill a two week long open marketplace of goods galore from the Arab world. Think of crafts from a Marrakech souk, jewellery from the bustling streets of Cairo, and contemporary art and design from the avenues of Beirut – the Souk promises to have it all.
Ferozkoh: Tradition and Continuity in Afghan Art – 15 November – 23 February 2014, Leighton House Museum
This stunning exhibition aims to demonstrate the continuity of traditional Islamic arts in the present day, as well as the role of education in transmitting and translating these art forms. The result of a collaboration between the Museum of Islamic Art (MIA) in Doha, Qatar with students and teachers from Turquoise Mountain Institute for Afghan Arts and Architecture in Kabul, Afghanistan, Ferozkoh comprises 18 pairs of objects. Half are historical objects belonging to four great dynasties with connections to Afghanistan: the Ghaznavids, Timurids, Mughals and Safavids. The other half are works created specifically for the exhibition by Turquoise Mountain students in response to, and in conversation with, these historical objects.
Evenings with Mariam al-Abdalla and Aisha Al-Tamimi – Tuesday 19 November, Books for Cooks.
Hot on the heels of her Koshari Street food success in Covent Garden, renowned chef and food writer Anissa Helou will bring together Mariam al-Abdalla, Aisha al-Tamimi and the team from the Food Forum in the National Museum of Qatar for a two night exploration of Qatari culinary traditions, influences, and cuisine. Mariam is widely known in the Middle East as one of the first Qatari women TV chefs, and she and Aisha have both published bestsellers in the Gulf region.
For the full programme and to book tickets for these and other events, visit the Nour Festival’s website here.