AWAN: Arab Women Artists Now

It goes without saying that artists in the Arab world are faced with extreme challenges when it comes to creating work, let alone displaying it. In the Middle East and North African regions, the promotion and preservation of culture are even more imperative than in many other places around the world, now, even more than ever.

Sultan Al Qassemi, founder of the Barjeeel Art Foundation, says “Every single member of our community in the Arab world has a responsibility and has the ability today, thanks to mobile phones, to document and save culture in case it disappears”

Al Qassemi

With the prominence of extremist and terrorist groups and their destruction of, and war on, culture, the artistic climate is particularly harsh in these parts of the world. Additionally, the burden of social and religious censorship means it is hard for anyone to get ahead and with struggling educational systems it’s even harder for young women to pursue their passion in the arts.

Certain organisations continue to fight for and shine a light on these relatively unrepresented segments of society. The one that has come to my attention recently is UK based Arts Canteen, who support emerging artists from the Arab World/Middle East to bring their work to new UK audiences.


Their boldest endeavor, is the annual festival, AWAN. Now in it’s 4th year, AWAN showcases Music, Visual Art, Performance, Comedy, Film, Food and more by women artists from the Arab World.

“I wanted to provide a platform for Arab women artists to reclaim their bodies, reclaim their experiences, and reclaim their narratives as part of a wider attempt at increasing understanding of the Middle East and the Arab region”  Joud Halawani Al Tamimi, Exhibition Curator, 2017


Launching tonight (March 1st) and running throughout the month, East London’s Rich Mix plays host for several of the AWAN events. As well as our Shoreditch neighbours, The Royal Albert Hall will be hosting some memorable gigs, the Arab British Centre will have workshops and with a few more venues participating there’s plenty of opportunities to see a piece of AWAN. Try and check something out and support this burgeoning scene.

By Danny






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