Syria's arts and culture before and after 2011 - Panel Discussion

On Tuesday 11th July we had a thought provoking panel discussion as part of the Celebrating Syria festival on Syria's arts and culture before and after 2011. The Panel addressed questions such as 'what happened to the arts and to culture under the dictatorship of the Assad regimes?' 'What does oppression do to artistic and creative expression?'

Since the revolution in 2011 and the fall of the ‘walls of fear’ the creative spirit of the Syrian people has unleashed hidden talents. The panel explored the idea of the Syrian revolution as a form of self-expression that has inspired a collage of artistic statements which, in turn, have influenced the face of the revolution. The panel imaginatively questioned whether the Syrian Revolution, in its essence, is a form of art after decades of silence and stagnation.

The Panel consisted of the following people:

Zaher Omareen - a Syrian writer, journalist and filmmaker based in London. He has worked on independent cultural initiatives in Syria and Europe and co-curated exhibitions on the art of the Syrian uprising. His short stories have appeared in Words Without Borders and the Massachusetts Review. He co-edited and contributed to Syria Speaks: Art and Culture from the Frontline (2014) and is currently working on a collection of short stories on the 1982 Hama massacre.

Rasha Abbas - a Syrian journalist and writer based in Berlin. In 2008, she published Adam Hates the Television, and was awarded the young writers prize at the Damascus Capital of Arab Culture Festival. In 2013 she co-wrote the script for a short film, Happiness and Bliss. She is also a contributor to Syria Speaks: Art and Culture from the Frontline. She is currently writing a collection of short stories, entitled The Gist of It while completing the Jean-Jacques Rousseau Fellowship in Stuttgart.

Malu Halasa - a Jordanian Filipina American writer, editor and curator based in London. She graduated from Barnard College, Columbia University. Her books include: Syria Speaks – Art and Culture from the Frontline (co-ed) (2014); Transit Tehran: Young Iran and Its Inspirations (2009); The Secret Life of Syrian Lingerie: Intimacy and Design (2008) and Creating Spaces of Freedom: Culture in Defiance (2002).

Chair: Alessandro Columbu - Alessandro obtained his MA in Arabic Literature from the University of Bologna, Italy. He has studied at several academic institutions including Universities of Barcelona, Damascus and SOAS. His translation of the eminent Syrian short story writer Zakaria Tamer’s book Taksir Rukabis is the first Arabic book to have been translated into Sardinian. Alessandro teaches Arabic at Manchester and Salford Universities while completing his PhD on the work of Zakaria Tamer.


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