Freelance Journalist + Blogger, Nahla Ink Online Journal


Dear Readers

February has arrived bringing with it lots of activity in terms of the arts and culture scene in London connected to the MENA region. There will be lots of events to attend with a great choice of exhibitions, music, a book reading, talks and film screenings that are all listed on My Curious Inbox page.

One wonderful exhibition I can recommend is ‘Field Work’ at the Tiwani Contemporary Gallery which looks at the mechanics of history. Eight artists participate in this show where they find themselves looking back, both at their own past and at ‘the past’ in general, engaging in storytelling, or perhaps more specifically, in history-telling. Three of the artists involved are from the North Africa region: the Moroccan Rita Alaoui, the French-Algerian Katia Kameli,
and the Egyptian Youssef Limoud.

There is still time also to catch the Zaha Hadid exhibition taking place at the Serpentine Sackler Gallery and the ‘Pattern Recognition’ at the Mosaic Rooms. The latter presents the work of six very different contemporary responses to the notion of repetition and patterns in the Palestinian context, where those taking part were challenged to break loose from familiar representations of art and develop fresh approaches.

Music wise, the Oxford Maqam will be performing at King’s Place on the occasion of the launch of their highly anticipated album ‘The Wax Cylinder Recordings’. Paying tribute to the Nahda era, the Oxford Maqam embrace the sounds of the Arab Renaissance that was an extraordinary period of musical innovation in the Middle East.

For the first time in the UK, the Egyptian composer, singer and guitarist Hamza Namira will also have a concert at Logan Hall. Namira uses his work to explore the social issues of today and aware of the dilemmas facing his generation across the Arab world, he addresses them in a unique emotive and inclusive style.

If you are a Oud fan, another night I would highly recommend is ‘Eastern Strings’. Aiming to highlight the connection and to build on it with original compositions and renditions of melodies from the Arab world and Turkey, it will explore the common thread running through both traditions by two oud players, Attab Haddad from Iraq and Baha Yetkin from Istanbul. Included in the programme is a masterclass to be given by Haddad looking at the instrument’s possibilities and how the Arabic forms can work with flamenco, jazz and classical flavours.

For the full listing that I update on a weekly basis:

February also being the month that hosts Valentine’s Day, I thought I would share with you, cliches aside, one of my favourite passages by Khalil Gibran that meditates on that mysterious thing we all call ‘Love’.

When love beckons to you, follow him,
Though his ways are hard and steep.
And when his wings enfold you yield to him,
Though the sword hidden among his pinions may wound you.
And when he speaks to you believe in him,
Though his voice may shatter your dreams
as the north wind lays waste the garden.

For even as love crowns you so shall he crucify you. Even as he is for your growth so is he for your pruning.
Even as he ascends to your height and caresses your tenderest branches that quiver in the sun,
So shall he descend to your roots and shake them in their clinging to the earth.

Like sheaves of corn he gathers you unto himself.
He threshes you to make you naked.
He sifts you to free you from your husks.
He grinds you to whiteness.
He kneads you until you are pliant;
And he assigns you to his sacred fire, that you may become sacred bread for God’s sacred feast.

All these things shall love do unto you that you may know the secrets of your heart, and in that knowledge become a fragment of Life’s heart.

But if in your fear you would seek only love’s peace and love’s pleasure,
Then it is better for you that you cover your nakedness and pass out of love’s threshing-floor,
Into the seasonless world where you shall laugh, but not all of your laughter, and weep, but not all of your tears.
Love gives naught but itself and takes naught but from itself.
Love possesses not nor would it be possessed;
For love is sufficient unto love.

When you love you should not say, “God is in my heart” but rather, “I am in the heart of God.”
And think not you can direct the course of love, for love, if it finds you worthy, directs your course.

Love has no other desire but to fulfill itself.
But if you love and must needs have desires, let these by your desires:
To melt and be like a running brook that sings its melody to the night.
To know the pain of too much tenderness.
To be wounded by your own understanding of love;
And to bleed willingly and joyfully.
To wake at dawn with a winged heart and give thanks for another day of loving:
To rest at the noon hour and meditate love’s ecstasy;
To return home at eventide with gratitude;
And then to sleep with a prayer for the beloved in your heart and a song of praise upon your lips.