Paris's Institut du Monde Arabe to honour Umm Kulthum, Fairouz and other Arab divas

The exhibition begins next July and will include film screenings and concerts

Umm Kulthum, Egyptian singer and performer.  Courtesy of Al Ittihad *** Local Caption ***  al20ap-cover-ummkalthum.jpg
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Experience some of the Arab world's grand dames from a new angle.

Paris's Institut du Monde Arabe's (Arab World Institute) announced a 2021 exhibition, Divas, which will be dedicated to significant women from the golden age of Arabic film and cinema.

Running from January 27 to July 25, the exhibition aims to explore how their respective work shaped and changed perceptions across the region.

Some of the personalities explored in Divas include Egyptian singer Umm Kulthum, Lebanese musical giants Fairouz and Dalida, Syrian vocalist Asmahan and Egyptian actress and screenwriter Bahiga Hafez.

“They are timeless icons, powerful women and adored symbols in post-war Arab societies,” said the statement.

“[They] embody a period of artistic and intellectual effervescence, a new image of women, as well as the national political renewal that was expressed from the early 1920s, particularly in Egypt, until the 1970s.”

Tickets are now on sale from €12 (Dh51) from the website.

What is in the exhibition?

The exhibition will cover an area of 1,000 square metres and be split into four sections.

The first part is dedicated to cosmopolitan Cairo of the 1920s with its rich and vibrant artistic community. Then there will be a section that spans a 30-year period from the 1940s and looks at some of the seminal works of Umm Kulthum, Warda Al-Jazairia, Fairouz and Dalida.

Dalida performs on stage during the 1970s. Getty Images
Dalida performs on stage during the 1970s. Getty Images

The next section will examine key films from that period, with a spotlight on stars Laila Mourad, Samia Gamal and Sabah. The final section wraps up all the themes and looks at how those periods and figures contributed to our understating of the region today.

The exhibition will also be accompanied by a free programme of film screenings, conferences and concerts. More information will be revealed soon.

What is the Institut du Monde Arabe?

Located on the banks of the Seine, the Institut du Monde Arabe has been an influential space for the study and display of Arab and Islamic culture in Europe.

Commissioned by former French president Francois Mitterrand, the project was completed by Louvre Abu Dhabi architect Jean Nouvel in 1987. With over a million visitors annually, the institute has shown various exhibitions on regional figures and topics across mediums including music, art, fashion and literature.

France Europe French Paris 5th arrondissement Arab World Institute AWI Institut du Monde Arabe exterior outside building glass wall. (Photo by: Jeff Greenberg/Universal Images Group via Getty Images)
The exteriors of the Institut du Monde Arabe in Paris, France. Getty Images

The institute has been championed across the region, with the Sheikh Zayed Book Award bestowing its prestigious Cultural Personality of the Year upon the organisation in 2018 for its contribution to Arab culture and the promotion of co-existence.

“The legacy that the Arab World Institute enjoys, and its long list of contributions to the cultural communication between the Arab and European nations, establishes a strong foundation for it to win the title," said the award's general sectary Dr Ali Bin Tamim. "We are extremely delighted and honoured to enrol the Institute in the Award’s hall of fame and wish it all the success in its pursuit in supporting Arabic culture."