LONDON: Arab art and culture took center stage in London when leading Arab artists ranging from children’s authors to hip-hop performers came together to celebrate the Arab British Center’s awards.
The awards ceremony highlighting Arab art and culture’s contribution to UK life was held in the City Hall offices of the London mayor on Thursday.
More than 250 guests, including diplomats from the UAE, Kuwait, Palestine, Jordan, Libya, Tunisia and Mauritania, applauded the individual and group winners: Syrian children’s author and illustrator Nadine Kaadan and Palestinian production company MARSM.
MARSM’s portfolio of artists ranges from classical to hip-hop, and includes established and emerging talent from the Middle East.
Sudanese textile artist Omeima Mudawi-Rowlings was runner-up in the individual category and artist platform Sarha Collective runner-up in the group category.
In her acceptance speech, Kaadan, whose moving stories such as “The Jasmine Sneeze” and “Tomorrow” bring Syria to life for young readers, said: “This award tells us something: We are Arab women, this is who we are. We are empowered, we are strong.”
Federika Schliessler from MARSM said: “We are proud of creating a platform where artists do not compromise who they are and what they believe in, especially in order to find a place and voice in a city like London.”
Christina Hazboun from MARSM added: “At a time of political fragmentation in the Arab world, our work at MARSM helps bring the Arab community together through the appreciation of culture. Music brings the society together to appreciate the sounds of home, and focuses on our similarities.
“This award will support our work in bringing the sounds of the alternative Middle East and North Africa to the UK,” she said.
Sir Derek Plumbly, chairman of the Arab British Center said: “All this positive energy is against the backdrop of dark and difficult times in much of the Arab world, and great uncertainty here. But that only goes to make the center’s role of opening windows on the diversity and creativity to be found in the Arab world all the more important.”
Plumbly added that the center has been working on a new program, Arab Britain, that will explore the history, achievements and experiences of Arabs in the country, retracing the ways the Arab world has influenced and shaped British culture and society.