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A composite image of five Arab women artists: Tasneim Zyada, Jessica El Mal, Alia Hamaoui, Riwa Saab & Bint Mbareh

A showcase featuring five Arab Women artists selected for the ASWAT commissions by Artsadmin, in collaboration with AWAN Festival and Arts Canteen. Each artist will present work developed during a three-day residency at Toynbee Studios in February 2024.

Tasneim Zyada explores the generational stories that rise within her own in a new spoken word piece that reflects on her body of work so far. The pieces looks into the threads that interlink the layers of Tasneim’s identity, from her childhood to becoming an artist and the hypervisibility that comes with being Palestinian. 

Jessica El Mal presents Our Dreams of Jasmine* – an interactive installation in collaboration with facilitator Heidi El Khlov. They invite you to take a seat and break fast together, from handmade pottery over multilingual poetry. Listening to the sound piece from which the installation takes its name, you will be able to hear poetry in Arabic, English and Farsi which combines field recordings and musical elements to explore themes of language, love and loss.  

*Our Dreams of Jasmine, the sound piece, was originally commissioned by At The Library with sound edit by Yasmeen Soudani and musical elements by Rita Kamale, co-produced with Colours of Pomegranate women’s group, produced by Faye Hamblett-Jones and Karema Munassar.  

Alia Hamaoui presents a collaborative project devised with Will Pegna (All Terrain Training) and Raheel Khan. This iteration includes Ronja Kasem, Sarah Ourahmane and Olive Hardy. This performance stems from Hamaoui’s wearable sculptures and her interest in how politics overlap with ancient and contemporary rituals of heightened performances within Lebanese history. The performance builds upon shared interest in embodying friction and pressure, and the blurred lines between performativity and improvisation as an evocative space. 

“روحي، وقلبي، وجسمي، وعقلي، وجمالي في يدك  

My spirit, my heart, my body, my mind, and my beauty are in your hands.” 

Riwa Saab presents a work in progress, multi-disciplinary performance piece exploring the secrets, truths and fallacies that we spin into gossip, the inseparability between art and politics, and a woman’s desire for liberation. It explores the work of Asmahan, the Syrian-Egyptian diva who skyrocketed to fame with her captivating voice, only for her journey to be cut short.

Bint Mbareh presents a performance from an improvised choir of non-musicians. The choir coalesced for the first time during the residency and has been rehearsing the un-rehearsable since then: listening all the time and responding in a feedback circle of care and reciprocity. An exploration of how to amplify one another through intentional listening and accompaniment, this will be the choir’s first performance. 

ASWAT (meaning ‘voices’ in Arabic) is a platform spotlighting emerging artists with a practice within performance art who identify as Arab Women. The commission includes a three-day residency at Toynbee Studios, a £1,500 artist fee, producer support from Artsadmin, Arts Canteen, and Rich Mix, and the opportunity to showcase work as part of AWAN Festival. ASWAT commissions is generously supported by Arts Council England, Cockayne Foundation and Bagri Foundation.

Tasneim Zyada is a London-based writer and published poet. With her roots stemming from Haifa, Palestine 1948, she documents the generational stories that rise to the surface within her own. Described as a calm storm, Tasneim’s work touches on memories, mental health, relationships and faith. 

Tasneim is wearing a yellow jumper resting her head against her hand, holding a strong gaze.
Photo by @funsovisuals

Twitter/X, Instagram and Tiktok: @tasneimzyada

Jessica El Mal is a British Moroccan artist and curator working on themes of ecologies, modern mythologies and ‘community’. She is curator at The Arab British Centre, founder of A.MAL Projects (an art and research initiative between North Africa and Europe) and is a PhD candidate at Leeds University.

Jessica has short brown curly hair, wears a blue suit jacket and black top underneath. Her face and body are obscured by a purple projected image. Photo by Sara Benabdallah.
Photo by Sara Benabdallah

Instagram: @jessica_elmal, @a.mal_projects

South London-based visual artist Alia Hamaoui (she/her) is a British-Lebanese artist, organiser, founding member of Collective Ending and a member of gobyfish collective (a platform for collaboration and exchange operating at the intersection of art and food). She is currently studying a part-time MFA at Goldsmiths. Recent shows with gobyfish include ‘Collective Laboratory’, MUDAM, Luxembourg. Recent solo exhibitions include: HINO 500, San Mei Gallery, July 2023 London, UK and  Passing Pari-daiza, Soup Gallery, May 2023, London, UK. Recent group shows include: In the green escape of my palace, Studio Chapple, November 2022, London, UK and But Not Blue (organiser), Collective Ending, September 2022, London, UK. 

Maintaining a broad, multidisciplinary practice, Hamaoui aims to advance our understanding of the interrelationship between the object and place, as viewed from within our increasingly digitised society and tech-infused existence.  Hamaoui addresses the importance placed on specific physical remnants of the past in shaping cultural identity, in the context of Lebanese or broader SWANA histories. She re-examines them through a contemporary mass media and popular culture lens, in order to explore the ways in which the ancient image continues to distort a sense of place. Recent works also resuscitate lost histories to explore potentials for new myth making. Working across sculpture, installation and video, layered and textured mise-en-scènes sample references to ancient artefacts, heterotopic spaces and contemporary cultural anecdotes to offer uncanny scenes, that situates between object, image and space. 

Black and white image of Alia Hamaoui in front of an artwork with a tiled surface and plaster casts. Alia is a cis gender woman with long brown hair, wearing a dark zip up top and chunky silver earrings and necklaces. She is looking directly at the camera.
Photo by Lucy Bruce-Gardiner


Instagram: @aliahamaoui

Riwa Saab is a cross-disciplinary artist who works with space, sound, and words. Through braiding together the crafts of theatre, poetry, and music, her work often interrogates how art puts people and our relationships at the centre of the political narratives we inhabit, while particularly exploring the diasporic experience of building cultural bridges, unpacking generational and familial baggage, and creating space for pockets of joy.

A photo of Riwa smiling and wearing a mustard-yellow sweater.
Photo by Aiden Harmitt-Williams

Bint Mbareh works with all formats of sound (radio, live, installation and many others) and is driven by the superpowers of communal singing human and more than human. She conducted research initially to combat the myth of water scarcity pushed by Israeli settler colonialism. the songs that she learned helped communities summon rain,  and at their core helped people build a relationship with their environment, decide what time of year it is, communally determine how to share resources, mainly the resource of time, fairly. Bint Mbareh makes music and sound today because she believes these uses can still be evoked, rather than remembered.

A black and white image of Bint Mbareh in profile, singing into a microphone

Instagram @bintmbareh

Date and time

30 March 2024

Please note
This is now a past event.


35-47 Bethnal Green Road,
Rich Mix, London
E1 6LA