Serpentine Pavilion Offsite 6 Apr — 6 Jul 2013 Free

The Serpentine Gallery and the Qatar Museums Authority (QMA) are proud to present Ehtifal, a free, three-day festival of art, literature, music and family events exploring the historical and contemporary Arab presence in London and its connections to the Arab world.

Ehtifal offered visitors of all ages an opportunity to engage in more depth with London’s Arab cultures.

Pop-Up Mathaf: Mapping Arab Literature in London

Thursday 4 July


Explore Arab London’s literary and artistic heritage with artist Ibrahim El-Salahi, publisher Margaret Obank, authors Ma’n Abu Taleb, Etel Adnan, Sophia Al-Maria and Hisham Matar and Serpentine Gallery Co-Director Hans Ulrich Obrist. Hosted by Pop-Up Mathaf guest curator Deena Chalabi, the event promised a unique and lively debate on the history and future of Arab literature in London.

The event was part of Continuous City: Mapping Arab London, a series of talks, discussions and publications mapping relationships between London and Arab cities that was developed by Mathaf: Arab Museum of Modern Art in Doha, the Serpentine Gallery’s Edgware Road Project during Qatar UK 2013 Year of Culture.

The discussion panel comprised:

Ma’n Abu Taleb is a short story writer and Co-Founder/Editor of, an Arabic language online music magazine dedicated to the analysis and criticism of Arabic music.

Etel Adnan is a poet, essayist and visual artist who divides her time between Lebanon, France and the USA. A former teacher, she now devotes herself to her art and writing. A powerful voice in feminist and anti-war movements, Adnan has published several works of poetry and fiction, including Sitt Marie Rose (1978), The Arab Apocalypse (1989) and Master of the Eclipse (2009).

Sophia Al-Maria is an artist, writer and film-maker. She studied comparative literature at the American University in Cairo and aural and visual cultures at Goldsmiths, University of London. Her work has been exhibited at the Gwangju Biennale, the New Museum in New York and the Architectural Association in London. Her writing has appeared in Harper’s, Five Dials, Triple Canopy and Bidoun.

Deena Chalabi (chair) is a writer and curator originally from London and now based in New York. She was the founding Head of Strategy at Mathaf: Arab Museum of Modern Art in Doha, Qatar. She has been invited by the museum to curate two 2013 Pop-Up Mathaf programmes in London and Liverpool that build on the pop-up framework she created at the ICA in 2011 and the Mori Art Museum in 2012.

Ibrahim El-Salahi, an award-winning artist and painter originally from Sudan and now based in Oxford, is one of the most significant figures in African and Arab Modernism. His work has been shown at Whitechapel Gallery, London; Tate Modern, London; MoMA PS1, New York; Mathaf: Arab Museum of Modern Art, Doha and Haus der Kunst, Munich, among others, and is represented in numerous collections. A major retrospective of more than 50 years of his work, Ibrahim El-Salahi: A Visionary Modernist, opens at Tate Modern on 3 July 2013 and runs until 22 September.

Hisham Matar is an international award-winning writer. He was born in New York to Libyan parents, and grew up in Libya, Kenya and Egypt. He moved alone to England at the age of fifteen. He is a regular contributor to British and American media, including The Guardian and The New Yorker magazine. His first novel In the Country of Men was shortlisted for The Man Booker Prize in 2006 and translated into 28 languages. His acclaimed second work Anatomy of a Disappearance was published in 2011.

Margaret Obank is co-founder of Banipal, the magazine of modern Arab literature (1998), and co-editor of A Crack in the Wall (2000), a collection of 60 contemporary Arab poets in English translation. In 2004, she founded the Banipal Trust for Arab Literature to support the publication of Arab authors in English translation and the production of live literature events in the UK with Arab authors. This led, notably, to the establishment of the Saif Ghobash Banipal Prize for Arabic Literary Translation (now starting its ninth year), the Banipal Books imprint, two Banipal Live UK tours of Arab authors and the BALMAL public lending library of Arab literature in translation

Pop-Up Mathaf: Tashweesh and Waeil Abo Bakr

Friday 5 July


Two special performances took place in the extraordinary setting of the Serpentine Gallery Pavilion 2013, designed by Sou Fujimoto.

Palestinian audio/visual collective Tashweesh presented their most recent sound and video performance: a fractured narrative exploring a contemporary moment full of desire and disaster and, on this occasion, incorporating recent histories of Arab London. The result was a collision between sound and video, field recordings, archive material, vocals, breaks and soundscape.

Renowned violinist Waeil Abo Bakr, assembled musicians for a performance that incorporated histories of local London musicians and nightclub owners on the Edgware Road and elsewhere from the 1970s to present.

Tashweesh is Basel Abbas, Ruanne Abou-Rahme and Boikutt.

Basel Abbas and Ruanne Abou-Rahme are artists that explore spatial politics, subjectivity and the absurdities of contemporary practices of power through installations, immersive environments and live audio-visual performances.

Boikutt is a musician and MC based in Ramallah, Palestine. Creating sounds using sampled material, field recordings and electronic devices, his work moves between hip-hop, downtempo, ambient, glitch and experimental. He has composed and produced music for artists such as Kronos Quartet, Bukue One, Spiritchild, Tamer Abu-Ghazaleh, Bleubird and others.

Waeil Abo Bakr is a London-based, Egyptian-born violinist who has worked with Jimmy Page, Robert Plant and Peter Gabriel. He was a key organiser of Arab music events in London in the 1970s and 1980s. He is a contributing artist to the Edgware Road Project.

The event was part of Continuous City: Mapping Arab London, a series of talks, discussions and publications mapping relationships between London and Arab cities that was developed by Mathaf: Arab Museum of Modern Art in Doha and the Serpentine Gallery’s Edgware Road Project during Qatar UK 2013 Year of Culture.

Ehtifal Family Festival

Saturday 6 July


The Serpentine Gallery and the Qatar Museums Authority (QMA) presented the Ehtifal Family Festival, celebrating the Qatar UK 2013 Year of Culture. This free, one-day family festival placed the Fischli/Weiss sculpture, Rock on Top of Another Rock, in a fantasy landscape linking Kensington Gardens to Qatar. Families were invited to contribute to a large-scale floor map featuring real and imagined landmarks in both places. Artists and designers from the Serpentine Gallery, Qatar Museums Authority Family Programmes and Mathaf: Arab Museum of Modern Art led this cross-cultural adventure in both English and Arabic. The festival included a bilingual storytelling corner with live illustration, interactive games and histories related to Qataris living in London, as well as hands-on building activities for the whole family.

Ehtifal was part of Qatar UK 2013 Year of Culture and the Shubbak Festival (22 June – 6 July), presenting a window on contemporary Arab culture.


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