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ASWAT Commissions – AWAN Festival 2024

An image of a person standing on a stage lit with purple light. They are using a DJ deck whilist holding a guitar. There is a large crowd watching them in the foreground.
Photo by Jana Saleh

This year, Artsadmin is partnering with Arts Canteen to co-curate the ASWAT Commissions for the AWAN Festival 2024. ASWAT (meaning ‘voices’ in Arabic) is a platform spotlighting emerging artists with a practice within performance art who identify as Arab Women.

Five artists have been selected for the commission, funded by the Cockayne foundation. The commission includes a three-day residency at Toynbee Studios, £1,500 artist fee, producer support from both Artsadmin and Arts Canteen, and the opportunity to showcase work at AWAN festival on 30 March at Rich Mix, London.

We are thrilled to announce that the five artists chosen by Artsadmin and Arts Canteen are:

  • Alia Hamaoui
  • Bint Mbareh
  • Jessica El Mal
  • Riwa Saab
  • Tasneim Zyada
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

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.

Instagram: @aliahamaoui

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.

Instagram @bintmbareh

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

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.

Instagram: @jessica_elmal

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

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.

Instagram: @riwa_sb

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

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. 

Twitter/X, Instagram and Tiktok: @tasneimzyada

The five artists were chosen through a curatorial selection process between Arts Canteen and Artsadmin. The selection committee was:

  • Aser El Saqqa – Founder and Director, Arts Canteen
  • Nene Camara – Assistant Producer, Artsadmin
  • Dr. Nora Laraki – Producer, Artsadmin
  • Valentina Vela – Artist Support Programme Producer, Artsadmin

About Awan Festival 2024

AWAN, Standing for Arab Woman Artists now, Festival is an annual festival established in 2015 and run by Arts Canteen, spotlighting the creative work of those who identify as Arab women.

AWAN 2024 will take place in London from 29 February to 30 March 2024. Boasting over 30 events, audiences can expect a plethora of unique experiences with music, theatre and performance, comedy, cabaret, talks, film, family events, workshops, exhibitions and much more. Events will spring up across London at venues including Africa Centre, Royal Albert Hall, Grand Junction, Rich Mix, Garden Cinema, Arab British Centre, Liverpool Arab Arts Festival, The Mosaic Rooms and more.

AWAN is sponsored and funded by Arts Council England, Cockayne Foundation, The London Community Foundation and Bagri. AWAN thanks them for all their generosity and support.

Visit AWAN’s website to find out more on this years programme and previous lineups.

Established in 2010, Arts Canteen is an arts organisation that empowers artists from the Arab world and beyond. They curate and produce events, exhibitions and festivals that support emerging, mid-career and established artists from the Arab world and surrounding regions, bringing their work to new audiences in the UK and beyond.

Visit Arts Canteen’s website to find out more

An image of a person standing on a stage lit with purple light. They are using a DJ deck whilist holding a guitar. There is a large crowd watching them in the foreground.
Photo by Jana Saleh