The better part of the last decade has seen a number of new chapters added to world history, with armed conflicts and extremist currents taking hold of entire regions. Nowhere is this felt more clearly than in the Arab world, which has become the site of ongoing struggles over power and ideology. Echoes of these regional conflicts have extended as far to the shores of Europe and have prompted leaders and citizens alike to reconsider the extent of the continent’s relationship with this part of the world–and to reflect on their own values and beliefs.
Arts and culture can act as a vehicle for resistance and change amidst this scattered reality. The arts are humanity’s way of asserting its right to freedom though the expression of individuality. Perhaps equally important is how art can encourage non-reductive discourses and adjust negative stereotypes, in this case concerning the Arab world. Art opens the door to mutual understanding at a time when it is needed the most.
This year marks the second international edition of the Arab Arts Focus (AAF) and its fifth edition overall. In 2017, the AAF curated a programme for the Edinburgh Festival Fringe on the occasion of its 70th anniversary, where the AAF presented performances by 10 Arab artists. The performers received six nominations for their impressive work, were awarded four international prizes and reached a combined audience of over 5,000 attendees.
The 2018 edition of the AAF at Avignon OFF invites festival programmers and producers from all over the world to immerse themselves in performances from the Arab world, many of which are being shown for the first time internationally. By creating space for these handpicked artists to show their amazing talents to the international community and gain the exposure they deserve, the AAF also presents an opportunity for international audiences to see these remarkable works and actively engage with a new vision of a more progressive, creative, and contemporary Arab world.