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Since the civil war began in 2010, Syria has seen some of the worst fighting in its history.
In conjunction with the new exhibition War and People: Art, Exile and the Middle East, four Southern California-based poets read from two recent collections of poetry, Dear Darwish and With Our Eyes Wide Open, that explore the effects of war and exile on people in South Asia, the Middle East and the Americas.
With Our Eyes Wide Open: Poems of the New American Century, focuses on the impact of recent wars on populations around the world specially the U.S. wars in Southeast Asia (Vietnam etc.), Central America, and the Middle East. This international anthology of poetry explores the impact of the United States in wars as well as upon the "nobodies"-outcasts, immigrants, the working class: "They [the poets]...represent an emerging poetic consciousness which is helping todefine and shape the imagination and language of the 21st Century." Using a call-and-response pattern, the poems look at the impact of the United States' wars in Korea, Vietnam, Central American, and Iraq on lives. Vietnamese-American poet Teresa Mei Chuc, and Julia Stein read from their own poems. Dima Hilal, a Lebanese American will read her work. We will also read some of the Middle Eastern poets in the anthology from Turkey, Oman, Egyptian-American, Morocco, Iraq, and Chechnya.
Read reviews of With Eyes Wide Open here and in Counterpunch here.
Levantine Cultural Center presents for the first time in Los Angeles, Ramy Essam live in concert and a public conversation. Essam is the Egyptian revolutionary rocker whose song "Irhal" contributed to the uprising that drove Hosni Mubarak from power, and who is featured in Jehane Noujaim's acclaimed documentary, The Square. He's recognized as perhaps the single most important musical artist of the Arab Spring.
This month Essam will undertake his first North American tour, with stops in NYC, Washington, DC, Los Angeles, Seattle and Vancouver. His show at the Levantine Center will mark a landmark appearance at the Levantine Center. "I have known of the work of the Levantine Center even from Egypt, and I can't imagine any other place to make my first West Coast concert than with them," Essam declared when the concert was confirmed. This will truly be a special event and Essam will perform not only his revolutionary hits, but also newly written and recorded material dealing with the student protests and ongoing harassment, jailings and worse of revolutionary activists, including many of his friends. He will also talk about his experiences the last three years and what he sees as the best path forward for Egypt in this difficult period. Listen/watch Ramy Essam on YouTube.
Jason Hamacher, widely traveled in Syria and other regions of the Middle East, will talk about his experiences, play selections from his "Sacred Voices of Syria" series, and show photos f
Directed by Laila Marrakchi (Morocco 2013, 100 minutes) with a powerhouse Arab cast that includes Hiam Abbass, Lubna Azabal, Nadine Labaki and Marjana Alaoui, ROCK THE CASBAH is a family drama set one summer in Tangiers. A family comes together for three days, following the death of the family patriarch. Swapping their swimsuits for djellabias, emotions run particularly high, when the youngest daughter Sofia, arrives from New York. Sofia, an actress in the United States, has settled into a new life, away from her family. As the order once maintained by the deceased father breaks down and unravels, the women of the family are forced to face certain harsh truths. Buy tickets.
Founded in 1996, the Arab Film Festival is the largest independent annual showcase of Arab films and filmmakers in the country. The festival has an international standing and is considered one of the most important Arab film festivals outside the Arab world. It strives to present the best contemporary films that provide insight into the beauty, complexity and diversity of the Arab world alongside realistic perspectives on Arab people, culture, art, history and politics.
Rock the Casbah is copresented by the Women's Film Institute and the Levantine Cultural Center.
The Levantine Cultural Center (LCC) showcases a new exhibition, War and People: Art, Exile and the Middle East, focused on contemporary art and artifacts gathered from artists, war refugees and their children. The exhibit focuses on the Iran-Iraq War (1980-1988), the Israel-Palestine Wars of 1948 and 1967, the Lebanon Civil War (1975-1990), and the Syrian War (2011-2014), and also includes a spoken word evening, "Poets on War and People" on Dec. 4, 2014. More here. Artists include Melissa Chimera, Fadia Afashe, John Halaka, Kinda Hibrawi, Khalid Hussein and Kaveh Keshmiri.
Featuring a mix of Muslim, Christian, and Jewish artists and contributors, the exhibition and its related events present an intriguing dialogue between art, artists and their audiences, providing a forum for contrasting perspectives, such as how Iraqi and Iranian artists remember the 1980-1988 war.
Originally scheduled to open November 1, 2014, the exhibition opens with a reception for the artists on November 21, and runs through December 31, 2014. War and People is a featured exhibition in the LA Islam Arts Initiative.
A related program, "Poets on War and People" takes place Dec. 4, 2014. More info here.
Curator Jordan Elgrably is a writer/editor and producer, who has presented dozens of art exhibitions, concerts, literary programs, and theatre, film, and public conversations on the cultures of the Middle East and North Africa.
Critics of Islam ask why Muslims themselves don't speak out often enough against extremism. The Levantine Cultural Center and Bana Hilal invite you to a salon, "When People of Muslim Heritage Challenge Fundamentalism," the subject of law professor Karima Bennoune's prize-winning book, and her Ted talk (March 2014). Of course, many Muslims like the young Malala Yousafzai and countless others around the world oppose Islamic fundamentalism, but they rarely make the news. Karima Bennoune, a native of Algeria, is a human rights lawyer and UC Davis law professor. Her book Your Fatwa Does Not Apply Here, Untold Stories from the Fight Against Muslim Fundamentalism, just won the Dayton Literary Peace Prize for 2014. It was named one of the top ten books of the year on religion and spirituality by Booklist, the magazine of the American Library Association. Read an excerpt on how Muslim artists battle fundamentalism.
Watch Karima Bennoune's Ted talk.
"Your Fatwa Does Not Apply Here should be required reading, not only for those of us who are professionally involved with Muslim-majority societies, but also for anyone who mistakenly believes that Muslims are doing nothing to end fundamentalist violence." —Rachel Newcomb, The Washington Post
On the Side of the Road is an Israeli documentary film written and directed by Lia Tarachansky that focuses on Israeli collective denial of the events of 1948 that led to the country's independence and the Palestinian refugee problem. It follows war veterans Tikva Honig-Parnass and Amnon Noiman as they tackle their denial of their actions in the war. The film also tells the story of the director, an Israeli who grew up in the Ariel settlement in the West Bank, but as an adult began to realize the problems of the Israeli Occupation for the Palestinians. The film was shot over the course of five years and premiered at the First International Independent Film Festival in Tel Aviv.
Lia Tarachansky follows the transformation of Israeli veterans trying to uncover their denial of the war that changed the region forever. She then turns the camera on herself and travels back to her settlement where that historical erasure gave birth to a new generation, blind and isolated from its surroundings. Attempting to shed a light on the country's biggest taboo, she is met with outrage and violence.
The filmmaker will introduce the film amd do a Q & A after the screening. This special director's screening with Tarachansky presented by LA Jews for Peace and the Levantine Cultural Center, with support from JVP-LA. New Voices in Middle Eastern Cinema with support from the Hollywood Foreign Press Association.
One of the biggest uncovered stories in the Middle East is the chasm between Israel's Euro-American Jewish population (Ashkenazim), and the Jews from the Arab/Muslim world, the Mizrahim. Deep-rooted racism continues to play a role in Israeli society between Ashkenazim and Mizrahim (sometimes called Sephardic Jews). Indeed, often there is a direct relationship between how Israel treats the Palestinians and the way Israeli society stratifies its own Jewish population, with Ashkenazim occupying more seats in the Knesset and more overall government control now than at any time since 1977, according to anthropologist and Professor Smadar Lavie.
Smadar Lavie suggests that there is a direct correlation between social protest movements in Israel, Ashkenazi-Mizrahi relations, and attacks on Gaza. Her talk will address Gaza 2014 and the Mizrahi predicament, right-wing politics and the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
Author most recently of Wrapped in the Flag of Israel, Mizrahi Single Mothers and Bureaucratic Torture, Smadar Lavie is a Scholar in Residence at the Beatrice Bain Research Center, UC Berkeley's feminists of color think tank, and at the Institute for Social Science in the 21st Century, University College Cork (Ireland). Her book looks at the role of gender in the Mizrahi-Ashkenazi divide with particular emphasis on how Mizrahi women (whose roots are in Arab countries, Iran, Afghanistan and elsewhere in the Middle East) navigate right-wing politics in Israel, noting that many Mizrahim vote for right-wing parties.
Professor Lavie will give a rare talk in Los Angeles on the relationship between the Mizrahi-Ashkenazi divide and the Palestinian-Israeli conflict, on Thursday, Nov. 6, 7 pm. Book signing and reception to follow.