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London based organisation which aims to research and support Arabic cultural production.
By M. Urieta & L. Mroueh | Oct 2006

Ziyarat is a London based organisation which aims to research, develop and encourage Arabic cultural production and international work related to the Arab world, in order to foster exploration about the diversity inherent in Arabic culture and to increase knowledge and understanding about it. Ziyarat aims to generate dialogue and collaboration between Arabic artists, thinkers and cultural producers and their international counterparts. Ziyarat curate, commission, produce and promote artistic production.

The organisation was set up in 2001, out of a need to create a community of like-minded people with similar disciplinary and cultural connections and interests, with the aim to create an open platform for meeting, dialogue and collaboration around Arabic culture and engaging with it from within and without the Arab world.

Since 2001, Ziyarat initiated a series of small scale events, such as open meetings, brainstorming and networking gatherings for British based artists, cultural and media workers with Arabic connections.

Ziyarat are currently working on an international tour of their most recent project,

Arabise Me, which opened in London, at the Victoria and Albert Museum (V&A) on 25 August 2006. The programme includes new works and special commissions in contemporary art, video, film, photography, performance art, spoken work, music, literature and a series of interactive projects and educational activities as well as talks and workshops.

Influenced as much by street culture as by art, the curators were keen to show work that does not correspond to the mainstream categorisation of what is Arabic. As a result of this, artists like Wael Hattar were able to deal with the notion of Arabicity in an irreverent way, twisting and parodying conventional notions about the culture. Hattar’s specially commissioned installation was entitled "Make your Own Arab" and was co-produced by Ziyarat, Arts Council England and the V&A, London.

Joumana Mourad’s dramatic dance solo performance "Please Excuse the Happiness" explored her cultural and personal roots through an emotional and powerful journey. Integrating different dance traditions and influences, from Buto to Arabic dance, Mourad has developed her own, unique physical language. Mourad’s performance at

Arabise Me, evoked themes of hysteria, solitude, grounded-ness and flight, ecstasy and tragedy. These were intensified by the dancer/choreographer’s use of a stark white cube, in which she performed against a background of projected organic visuals, with ropes anchoring her by the waist to the centre of the cube. Mourad danced to a highly passionate music and vocals, which mesmerised the audience and created an electric atmosphere in the theatre.

The live music acts offered audiences a chance to hear a plethora of genres and sounds from Arabic Hip Hop by Eslam Jawaad, the region’s pioneer of the

Fosha Hop style (Hip Hop using the classical Arabic language), in addition to experimental Arabic electronica by El Masri and Moroccan fusion music by U-Cef who performed some of his older compositions as well as samples from his upcoming release "Halalium". For

Arabise Me, U-Cef collaborated with the Arab League, a trio comprising a lead vocalist, a keyboard player and a percussionist, interpreting old classical Arabic songs from different traditions and merging them with funky, electronic beats to create a unique fusion across genres and across countries.

Ziyarat are currently developing the next editions of

Arabise Me, which will tour internationally and be presented through co-productions with several partner organisations. The next editions of

Arabise Me will take place in 2007, in Dubai and in Holland.


M. Urieta & L. Mroueh

Mahita El Bacha Urieta and Leila Mroueh are founders and co-directors of Ziyarat.


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Headed by co-founding directors Mahita El Bacha Urieta and Leila Mroueh.

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