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New York Arab Festival 2024

posted on: Apr 9, 2024

By: Masha Lukovenko / Arab America Contributing Writer

The inaugural Arab and Arab American art and cultural festival in New York City celebrates the ideas, music, dance, fashion, performances, and food that have contributed to the in integration of Arab and American cultures. With war and genocide being actively committed against Arab countries, this year’s celebration shifts momentarily from a festive mood to a polyphony of listening, lamenting, paying tribute, and raising voices. As many of us face situations that test and occasionally even call into question our humanity, NYAF will examine Arab relationships to Arab lands and habitats, to nature, and in particular, to animals and animality. Many of the speakers and debates during the festival will be Palestinian artists and intellectuals, many of whom are personally affected by the genocide in Palestine.

In 2022, the New York Arab Festival (NYAF) was established to honor Arab American Heritage Month and counteract the erasure of Arab and Arab American identities in New York City, where Arabs have resided for over three centuries. NYAF, held in April and May of 2024, spans various locations throughout the city, coinciding with Arab American Heritage Month, which, for the third consecutive year, falls between Ramadan and Eid. NYAF is orchestrating numerous live, in-person events alongside satellite gatherings across NYC, the USA, and other countries, in collaboration with innovative institutions. Morocco, an Arab nation, holds the distinction of being the first to recognize the American Declaration of Independence, solidifying centuries of cultural, diplomatic, commercial, and political ties between Americans and Arabs. NYAF places a significant emphasis on facilitating conversations between US cultural practitioners and Arabic-speaking communities, with a particular focus on exploring the histories and practices of Arab Americans.

NYAF is an interdisciplinary celebration of design, food, philosophy, art, culture, and related fields. It features Arab American artists, especially those who work and reside in New York City, and presents art and culture from the Arabic-speaking region and the Arab diaspora. Palestine, Libya, Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Lebanon, Algeria, Iraq, Morocco, the United Arab Emirates, and other countries will send speakers and artists to New York. The festival’s original Senior Producer Cindy Sibilsky, Urbanist and Curator Adam Kucharski, and Artist and Curator Adham Hafez organized and managed NYAF. The festival was founded by Arab, Arab American, and American artists, curators, and cultural operators. NYAF is powered by Wizara LLC and created by HaRaKa Platform in collaboration with numerous renowned institutions in New York City and worldwide and throughout the globe.

NYAF 2024 opens with the return of the NEW YORK ARAB FESTIVAL on Sunday, April 7 at 7 p.m. In person at 315 Columbia Street, Brooklyn, NY’s The Jalopy Theatre. Malikat Al Dabke, the only all-female Dabke company from Washington, DC, will perform collective dance choreographies ranging from Palestinian to Iraqi dance styles and music as part of this double bill, which is presented for the first time in NYC. Accompanied by renowned musician Ameer Armaly, Angie Assal, the evening’s host, will showcase a rebirth of dance legacy from Egypt, Lebanon, and the Levant, with a series of classical raqs-sharqi dance solos.

The New York Arab Festival and Poetry Project are thrilled to announce their inaugural collaboration in honor of Arab American Heritage Month on Monday, April 8 at 8 p.m. at St. Mark’s Church (131 E. 10th Street, NYC). This event invites poets, writers, and public speakers from Arab and Arab American backgrounds, along with their allies, to communicate pressing concerns with their communities because it recognizes the power of language in times of turmoil. Refaat Alareer was a well-liked poet, writer, and philosopher from Palestine who was slain in Gaza in 2023. Andrew Riad, Farah Barqawi, Zeinab Ftes, Sophia Gutchinov, Hind Shoufani, and Issam Zeibak are among the readers at this event honoring his memory.

The second year of the New York Arab Festival Short Film Program will take place at the Bartos Screening Room on Sunday, April 14, from 1:30 to 4:30 p.m., at the Museum of the Moving Image (36-01 35 Ave, Astoria, Queens, NY), in response to the overwhelming success of the inaugural program last year. The program will feature films from various Arab filmmakers, such as Randa M. Ali and Ahmed Farahat, and will showcase films from the Arab world. Through examining individual voices, a dream-granting institution, the disintegration of political illusions, or myths of mermaids and sirens transforming urban and political landscapes, the program explores illusion, myths, and the creation of big narratives.

In celebration of their third year of collaboration with the esteemed music venue NUBLU (151 Loisaida Ave/Avenue C, NYC), NYAF will host two concerts there later in April. NYAF Presents The Arab Blues on Friday, April 19, at 7 p.m. Tickets are $20 in advance and $25 at the door. The Arab Blues, a Chicago-based band making its Manhattan debut, feature native Egyptian percussionist Karim Nagi and Lebanese-Egyptian oud and guitar player Rami Gabriel fusing Chicago blues, jazz, and rock ‘n’ roll with traditional Arabic music and traditions. They represent the call of tradition and the diaspora’s reaction, tracing a trajectory between tradition and innovation.

NYAF Presents Esraa Warda and Fella Oudane on Saturday, April 27 at 7 p.m. at NUBLU (151 Loisaida Ave/Avenue C, NYC) ($20 in advance, $25 at the door; get tickets HERE). Esraa Warda, a passionate dancer from NYC, and Fella Oudane, a formidable vocalist and darbouka expert, come together for an enthralling performance of the feminine energy in Algerian music. Originating in Bab-El-Oued, Algiers, and now residing in Los Angeles, Fella Oudane rose to prominence performing in duos with Cheb Nasro. She supports traditional Algerian music, such as Rai, Assimi, and Kabyle.
Also, Renowned Algerian-American dancer Esraa Warda has explored socio-cultural themes in traditional Algerian dance. She has been featured in The New York Times, VOGUE Arabia, The Metric, and on PBS’s Bare Feet and NPR’s Tiny Desk. In 2022, she was nominated for the BBC 100 Women. Both women will present a double Algerian drumming and dancing workshop at La MaMa Studios (47 Great Jones, 4th floor) on Sunday, April 28 from 3-6 p.m.

For the third year, NYAF and La MaMa ETC will work on an exhibition honoring Arab and Arab American performance history in late April and early May. The event will feature 12 artists from the Arab world and diaspora. Two live performances featuring three Saudi Arabian artists will commemorate the show in the newly rebuilt La MaMa 74A West 4th Street as part of the “Saudi Sounds” emphasis program. The inaugural event, “Sound of Mecca,” explores modern soundscapes from the holy city with Saudi musician and artist Ahmed Fakeih.

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