Arab Women Artists Now 2023: A guide to London's month-long festival

From Palestinian literature to Iraqi art, here are the must-see sessions

A special film screening of the film Nezouh by Soudade Kaadan is among the festival highlights. Photo: Nezouh Ltd
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Arab Women Artists Now, or Awan for short, is hosting its annual festival of literature, art, music and performance in London until March 30.

Awan was founded in 2016 to create a platform for Arab women working in arts and culture. Produced in association with Arts Canteen, this year's event will be held in several locations, including the Royal Albert Hall, the Arab British Centre and the Rich Mix centre in Bethnal Green. Here are our top picks from the festival, which are all taking please at Rich Mix:

Sard: Libyan Oral History, March 4

The event launches the project Sard to addresses the difficulties in writing an objective history of Libya, which has been overcome by conflicts and competing narratives among different factions.

It is initiated by the architect and curator Najla Elageli, journalist Sana Elmansouri and solicitor Sarah Giaziri, who will be in conversation at 4pm. The project will collect oral histories from Libyans who have lived through recent turmoil, preserving their memories and experiences in an attempt to create a holistic memory for the country.

Palestinian Literature Now, March 11

In this session, authors Selma Dabbagh and Heba Alhayek will discuss key themes in Palestinian literature, such as the role of symbols and the figure of the hero poet.

Drawing from their own work, such as Dabbagh’s Out of It and Alhayek’s Sambac Beneath Unlikely Skies, the writers will also address how Palestinian literature is opening up to other voices and perspectives.

The session, which takes place at 12.30pm, will be moderated by Nora Parr, a researcher in Palestinian and postcolonial literature at Soas in London and the Freie Universitat in Berlin.

Nezouh, March 18

A film screening of the Syrian drama film Nezouh, which tells the story of a family who are the last to remain in a besieged Damascus. When a missile tears a hole through the wall of their home, they must decide between the uncertain and dangerous option of becoming refugees, or remaining in equally precarious Syria.

Nezouh's acclaimed director Soudade Kaadan will be at the event for a Q&A after the screening, which is scheduled for 9pm.

Iraq in Focus, March 18

A collaboration between Arts Canteen and the Station — an independent platform in Baghdad that supports young entrepreneurs and artists — this project pairs five artists living in Iraq with five Arab artists residing in the UK for a year-long mentorship scheme.

At the event, which starts at 1pm, the artists will show the works across various media that were a result of the partnership and will also share their stories. Featured artists include Alaa Alsraji, Sally Souraya, Farida Eltigi, DJ Luma, Lara Kobeissi, Yusur Mokdad, Niga Salam, Mena Hadad, Yusur Mokdad and Raz Kamaran.

Hawazin Alotaibi, until March 30

Held at the Rich Mix, Awan will also present a month-long exhibition, which runs daily from 10am to 10pm, of works by the Saudi-American artist Hawazin Alotaibi. She completed her master's degree from the Royal College of Art in London, and will show recent paintings that explore ideas around self-presentation, identity and change, particularly in the sphere of gender relations.

More information and tickets are available at

Updated: March 03, 2023, 2:02 PM