Alserkal Avenue is looking to channel the 19th century literary salon with its Literaturhaus at Nadi programme this summer.
The salon idea is defined as an environment “where contemporary questions were debated alongside an array of literary, artistic and cultural initiatives, inspiring audiences with new perspectives”, which is a reasonable interpretation (many of the originals aspired to Homer’s definition of the purpose of poetry, aut delectare aut prodesse, “either to please or to educate”, and hopefully we’ll miss out on the self-promoting host who typically used the gathering of self-styled intellectuals to burnish their own personal reputations. Surely nothing like that could ever happen in Dubai?)
The Nadi Al Quoz version is a busy series of readings, discussions and performances during July and September, featuring authors, poets, critics, curators, publishers, translators, and musicians. Alserkal’s bumf says “the programme will cover all aspects of contemporary culture and become a forum to spark thoughtful exchange”.
There’s an event every Saturday from 1 July till 30 September, most events at 4pm (but be warned that two aren’t on Saturday and not at 4). They are all free of charge and open to the public, but space is limited so prebooking at firstname.lastname@example.org is essential.
- Saturday 1 July | 4pm
Poetry slam: Afra Atiq
A personal favourite. Emirati spoken-word poet Afra Atiq (poetry “is meant to be seen, heard and experienced rather than read”) switches easily between English and Arabic; the child of a Japanese-American mother and an Emirati father, she draws on multiple traditions and can deliver a power-packed performance. Here’s ‘An open letter to cancer’, the poem which won the ADMAF creativity award 2017.
- Saturday, 8 July 2017 | 4pm
Reading and performance: Fadi Zaghmout and Hani Yakan – The Bride of Amman
Fadi Zaghmout’s The Bride of Amman, published in 2015, is a controversial bestseller that takes a sharp-eyed look at the intersecting lives of four women and one man in Jordan’s capital. It’s “a bold, charged novel detailing the struggle Jordanians face in abiding societal strictures on sexual orientation” according to one review. During the reading, Hani Yakan will perform a scene from the book; Hani will also moderate a Q&A session afterwards.
- Saturday, 15 July 2017 | 4pm
Reading and talk: Hussain Ali Lootah – Between Two Wives
A glimpse into a rarely seen aspect of Emirati life. Hussain Ali Lootah, a noted Emirati lawyer and poet offers a semi-autobiographical narrative of life with two wives – “a life that I have been coping with for nearly three decades and finally had the courage to testify to, revealing secrets that were kept hidden within its walls for so long. I apologise. I apologise to those who fell victim to my life: myself first”.
- Saturday, 22 July 2017 | 4pm
Workshop: Creative writing with Mariam Al Saedi
Mariam al-Saedi has a day job at the Abu Dhabi Department of Transport but is developing a career as a writer – she has two short story collections published, with a third about to appear. In this practical workshop she focuses on the inner voice of the writer, using the ‘why, how, when, what, where’ approach to developing a starter paragraph.
- Saturday, 29 July 2017 | 4pm
Talk: Ibrahim Ali Khadim – Teaching Love
Khadim’s book Teaching Love aims to provide some guidance on how to love and accept oneself, how to take the lead and become a better person, how to control your emotions, and how to face challenges in life. Which sounds pretty comprehensive.
- Saturday, 5 August 2017 | 4pm
Talk: Asma Al Jailani – How the skill of writing becomes the journey of writing
A blogger and writer with a background in journalism and a day job in strategic communications, Asma Al Jailani is an articulate and interesting commentator. She’s a founding member of Untitled Chapters, an Emirati female writing community that encourages and mentors aspiring writers in the UAE. This talk will cover her own experiences of the writing process, “building on the importance of self-learning, discipline, and dedication”.
- Saturday, 12 August 2017 | 4pm
Spoken word performance workshop: Dubai Poetics
Dubai Poetics, started by Jamil Adas a couple of years ago, has become one of the city’s most prominent hubs for poetry sharing and art collaboration; and Farah Chamma (right) – a Dubai-born Palestinian spoken word poet who can perform in six different languages – is one of its stars. (Check out her YouTube videos, though sadly they don’t include her rather lovely ‘Like a Poet Would Do’ …) She leads this practical session, which is limited to 12 spaces.
- Saturday, 19 August 2017 | 4pm
Talk: Andrew Hansen – My Life on the Coffee Table
Andrew Hansen is MD of Prestel Publishing, a leading publisher of books on art, architecture, photography and design; he’s also an engaging speaker, given to self-deprecating anecdotes. In this talk we’re promised his perspective on how to achieve success in a rapidly changing and highly competitive book market “while having fun along the way”.
- Saturday, 26 August 2017 | 4pm
Poetry Slam and music performance: Farah Chamma and Parea
See above for magpie’s enthusiasm about the young Palestinian spoken work poet, in performance here with some members of the band that she sometimes performs with: Myriam Nehmeh (percussion) and Maruan Betawi (oud and guitar). The style is improvisational; the band won’t have rehearsed with Chamma’s text.
- Saturday, 2 September 2017 | 4pm
Talk: Zaki Anwar Nusseibeh – Love for written and spoken word and the importance of translation
HE Zaki Anwar Nusseibeh (right) counts as cultural royalty in the UAE – cultural advisor at the Presidential Court, interpreter for the President of the UAE, a board member of TCA Abu Dhabi, and more. So his account of the development of the cultural scene in the UAE and the importance of culture and books in his own life will be worth listening to. The discussion will be moderated by Philip Kennedy, Professor of Middle Eastern and Islamic Studies and Comparative Literature at NYU Abu Dhabi.
- Saturday, 9 September 2017 | 4pm
Talk and reading: Mai Khaled – The Magic of Turquoise
Mai Khaled will introduce a literary piece, Story Telling is my Fate since I Became the Puppet of My Own Self!, followed by a reading from her 2011 novel The Magic of Turquoise – an intricate, questioning journey through an Egyptian family’s memories and secrets.
- Wednesday, 13 September 2017 | 7pm
Poetry reading: Zeina Hashem Beck – Louder than Hearts
Lebanese poet Zeina Hashem Beck (right) delivered a tour de force in her second collection, Louder than Hearts. The London Magazine summarised it neatly: “grounded, as always, in detailed observation, [Hashem] Beck records and hymns the ordinary gifts of physicality, motherhood, and living between two languages; a way of walking us through her world”. The talk will be moderated by Anna Seaman from The National, and the event will end with a Q&A with the audience and a book signing.
- Saturday, 16 September 2017 | 4pm
Talk: Philip Kennedy – On the First Arabic Novella
Da`wat al-Aṭibbā’ (Doctors’ Dinner Party, sometimes translated as Vocation of Physicians) by Ibn Butlan (d.1066 CE) is a little-known gem of medieval Arabic creative literature. Philip Kennedy from the NYU Abu Dhabi Institute regards this picaresque medical novella as a milestone in the history of pre-modern Arabic narrative, and he’s preparing his own edition and translation of it.
- Saturday, 23 September 2017 | 4pm
Talk: Aidan Walker – The Ecology of the Soul
Aidan Walker (right) is definitely one of the more interesting characters you’ll come across in the Literaturhaus series. His first career was furniture design and cabinet making, followed by 20 years of writing for and editing design magazines (he has most of the professional UK design magazines, including FX, Blueprint, Design, Grand Designs, icon and onOffice). Now he does conference and seminar programmes for art and design conferences, and he’s ‘content director’ of the Leading Culture Destinations awards scheme. He published The Ecology of the Soul in early 2016, a manual of meditation and mindfulness (with especial relevance to the practice of design). Subtitled ‘a manual of peace, power and personal growth for real people in the real world’, the book offers (in the author’s word) “a psycho-spiritual system for the mind, body and spirit, a map with which we uncover and regenerate our innate mental and spiritual powers, and restore the balance of our own internal eco-system”. He also likes guitars and fast motorbikes. Definitely one to hear, if only to make up your own mind about him …
- Thursday, 28 September 2017 | 6pm
Talk: Frauke Heard-Bey and David Heard
Frauke and David Heard have lived in the UAE since before the State’s creation in 1971 and have both published research about the history of the Emirates. They will share stories from both their lives and their books Years of Transformation (Dr Heard-Bey) and From Pearls to Oil (David Heard).
- Saturday, 30 September 2017 | 4pm
Talk: Tom Fletcher – Naked Diplomacy: Power and Statecraft in the Digital Age
How we can survive and thrive in the 21st century? Tom Fletcher (right) has some ideas. An active blogger and Twitter aficionado, he was the youngest British ambassador for 200 years (from 2011 to 2015 he was the UK’s Ambassador to Lebanon; he now campaigns for global education, the UK’s creative industries, and the power of social media to create positive change. Naked Diplomacy was published last year to great reviews: “articulate, intelligent and immensely readable” said the New Statesman, “a cracking read” added The Times. This guy is a breath of fresh air and a real heavyweight at the same time.