Liverpool Arab Arts Festival (LAAF) reveals powerful female line-up for 2019 festival

Posted on 11 June 2019
By Khyle Deen
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Liverpool Arab Arts Festival (LAAF) presents four powerful and diverse female artists as part of its 2019 programme – award-winning Palestinian writer, performer and activist, Dana Dajani, Palestinian dancer and choreographer, Farah Saleh and spoken word artists Amina Atiq and Lisa Luxx.

The line-up of inspirational and ground-breaking women artists from across the Arab diaspora has been curated in support of RISE, Liverpool’s season of extraordinary female artists, thinkers and leaders.

LAAF welcomes renowned artist Dana Dajani as its artist in residence for 2019, bringing her theatrical poetry with gesture and character to four festival events.

Dana will perform a World Exclusive of her one-woman show Heroine with a Thousand Dresses at Bluecoat (13 July), taking the audience through the diverse and eclectic wardrobe of her own grandmother – a boutique owner in Jerusalem whose love of fashion was her mode of self-expression.

Serving as a Mistress of Ceremonies, Dana will dissect image and identity, style, sexuality, and standards of beauty in contemporary society, through the ritual of dressing. As she examines each garment in the performance, Dana evokes a pantheon of strong and powerful feminine archetypes, telling HERstory through a personal, ancestral, and mythological lens.

Dana will also join forces with two fellow Spoken Word artists of diverse heritage and influence – Yemeni-Scouse poet, Amina Atiq and queer British-Syrian writer and activist, Lisa Luxx – for They Write the Shadows into Light at VideOdyssey at Toxteth TV (6 July).

The three inspiring voices will unravel themes including refugees, belonging, love, war, and diaspora, while using rhythm and musicality of language to transport the audience to Palestine, Yemen, Syria and beyond.

Dana will also deliver two two-and-a-half hour workshops aimed at inspiring and encouraging budding writers and spoken word artists. Write Yourself (7 July) is a session based on a series of introspective questions from Dana’s guided journal, allowing participants to deepen their self-awareness through writing, review, and reflection.

Her Find Your Voice workshop (9 July) will reveal techniques for writers and performers to find their unique voice and learn how to express any emotion through poetry, prose, or song.

At Bluecoat is a performance of Gesturing Refugees, by Farah Saleh and her collaborators. A combination of dance and visual art, the interactive performance intends to archive hidden stories of refugeehood using the bodies of refugee artists and audience members, while playing with other archive material, testimonies and imagination.

Funded by Creative Scotland and Cultural Resource and supported by Dance Base, the re-enactment, transformation and deformation of the alternative and personal memories of refugees, performed by refugee artists, will allow the re-appropriation of the narrative of refugeehood and develop a collective gestural identity that might challenge that of passive victimhood to which refugees are often subjected.

Completing the female-focused programme are events already announced, including the UK premiere performance of American Lebanese singer Juliana Yazbeck’s debut record at the Royal Court Studio (5 July).

The record, SUNGOD, is a call to all women and cultures to shed internalised shame and to remember, reawaken and reclaim our inherent and divine beauty, both as women and as autonomous peoples.

The 2019 music programme also features the only UK performance outside London of The Trace of the Butterfly, a tribute to renowned Palestinian singer and activist, Rim Banna, who passed away in 2018 after a decade-long battle with breast cancer.

Produced by MARSM UK, the uplifting celebration of Banna’s life will include performances from Arab musicians including Tania Saleh, Faraj Suleiman, Bu Kolthoum and Sabrine Jenhani, with more artists still to be announced.

Finally, the Unity Theatre will play host to dance spectaculars, ēvolvō and One Day + One Night Beirut (July 11), created and performed by renowned Lebanese visual artist and performer Yara Boustany.

LAAF Director, Anne Thwaite said: “We are incredibly proud to be bringing such powerful, diverse and inspirational female Arab artists to the city for this year’s festival.

“Our 2019 theme, Shadow and Light, goes to the heart of how we tell the story of Arab art and culture and female voices from across the Arab diaspora contribute so much to that rich tapestry.

“It is also wonderful to have the opportunity to bring these exceptional female performances to the city during Liverpool’s RISE season, showcasing their work on a local, national and international stage.”

Each year, LAAF attracts tens of thousands of people from Liverpool and beyond, for a thrilling showcase of the richness of Arab culture, with a packed programme of visual art, music, dance, film, theatre, literature and special events taking place in venues across the city.

LAAF is supported by Arts Council England and Liverpool City Council.

For more information and to book tickets visit