VELVET SOCIETY: Power and Glamour in 90s Damascus 23June – 23July 2022

Event Type
Private View

Event Title
Velvet Society: Power and Glamour in 90s Damascus Private View with Live Solo Viola Performance by Raghad Haddad

General Information
Litehouse Gallery is honoured to present Velvet Society, an exhibition displaying the creative acts of survival in fashion and fabric of two Syrian women, civil engineer Raghad Mardini and artist Heba Al-Akkad. The 90s fashion collection of Mardini, emanating from the wealthy and powerful class of the self-styled “velvet society” prominent in 90s Syria, will be juxtaposed with a range of vibrant artworks made in fabric and fibre by Heba Al-Akkad. A powerful dialogue will be established between these collections, to expose a Damascus of the 90s dominated by complexes of glamour and power, at once joyful yet troubled, wielded both by and against the women in question.

The exhibition centres itself around the stories of these two Syrian Muslim women. From differing backgrounds, they, as refugees from the Syrian uprising, struck up a friendship founded on a mutual interest in creativity within visual arts. Viewers will bear witness to their testimonies of liberation from religious and patriarchal violence. Photographs, art objects and items of fashion are displayed to invigorate a commentary on feminism, female freedom and Syrian history, linked by the medium of textiles.

By bringing these stories to UK audiences in a seductive yet forceful exhibition, fashion devotees and art lovers alike will explore the political nature of clothing, how it shapes the representation of women in fashion, society and art. Beliefs about Middle Eastern women will be challenged and a broader and richer recent Syrian history will emerge.

A private view with the artist, Heba Al-Akkad, will be held Thursday 23rd of June at 7pm in the P21 Gallery, and will feature a solo viola performance of Syrian classical compositions by Raghad Haddad, a refugee in the UK and a member of the London Syrian Ensemble.

Heba Al-Akkad
Artist
Litehouse Gallery

Heba Al-Akkad was born in Damascus in 1981. She graduated from the Faculty of Fine Arts at Damascus University 2006. She now lives and works in Gothenburg, Sweden, where she has been able to escape the cycle of familial violence and abuse that she suffered since girlhood. She has had solo shows across Europe and the Middle East. Litehouse Gallery has commissioned work from Al-Akkad on themes of self-identity and dress.

Thursday 23rd June, 7.00 – 9.00 pm

 Partner/s Details
Arts Council England.

Event Coordinator
Raghad Mardini
Director
Litehouse Gallery Limited
Phone: +447497106676
Email: raghad@litehousegallery.com

VELVET SOCIETY: Bird / Human, Heba Al-Akkad 25June 2022

Event Type
Workshop

Event Title
Bird / Human

General Information
This free workshop hosted by artist Heba Al-Akkad is aimed at children and young people. Using fabric and puppetry techniques, participants will explore self-identity and coding through clothes by creating their own figures using textile and cardboard boxes. Bring an old photo that has meaning for you. All materials will be provided. All ages under 14 and parents welcomed to be present.

In acts of playful discovery, we will take the bird and the human, merging and mixing the two to obtain an inspired character. The imagination of the child will help create, through the use of recycled materials (fabrics and threads), an artistic doll. We will create a space to empower the child, encourage him or her to experiment with different materials that help develop skills of drawing and carving in an artistic frame. The bird will symbolise freedom, hope and migration.

Artists/Speakers Names & Bios
Heba Al-Akkad
Artist
Litehouse Gallery

Heba Al-Akkad was born in Damascus in 1981. She graduated from the Faculty of Fine Arts at Damascus University 2006. She now lives and works in Gothenburg.

Her work is never didactic, though themes of isolation and vulnerability are pervasive. Her work often has a bright palette reminiscent of Matisse and the other Fauves and she speaks movingly of how she has learnt from the art of children. In her dream-like images, she works to disentangle feelings of abuse, loss and death and begins to create vivid pieces of art bridging her past, present, and future. In these images humorous imagery jostles alongside soulful longing and dark remembrances.

Al-Akkad has had solo shows internationally, including at the Gislaveds Konsthalle and the Skovde Konstmuseum, both in Sweden; Europia Gallery in France; Galerie Tanit in Lebanon; Alanda Art Gallery in Jordan; and Samer Kozah Gallery in Syria.  She exhibits regularly in group shows around the world, including Venice, Washington DC, London, Dubai, Japan, and Germany.


Saturday 25th June, 11.00 – 1.00 pm

Partner/s Details
Arts Council England, Counterpoints Arts as part of Refugee Week.

Event Coordinator
Raghad Mardini
Director
Litehouse Gallery Limited
Phone: +447497106676
Email: raghad@litehousegallery.com

VELVET SOCIETY: Curator-led Tour with the Artist, Heba Al-Akkad 25June 2022

Event Type
Gallery talk

Event Title
Curator-led Tour with the Artist

General Information
An opportunity to hear from the artist Heba Al-Akkad and curator Raghad Mardini in person about this exhibition that is based around their two lives in 90s Syria. It will be accompanied by a British Sign Language interpreter. Entry is free.

Heba Al-Akkad
Artist
Litehouse Gallery

Raghad Mardini
Curator
Litehouse gallery


25th June, 3.00 – 4.00 pm

Partner/s Details
Arts Council England.

Event Coordinator
Raghad Mardini
Director
Litehouse Gallery Limited
Phone: +447497106676
Email: raghad@litehousegallery.com

VELVET SOCIETY: Social Fabrics: Interwoven Identities 30June 2022

Event Type
Gallery talk

Event Title
Social Fabrics: Interwoven Identities

General Information
A live panel with the famous Lebanese novelists Hanan Al Shaykh and Prof. Iman Humaydan. With both novelists speaking about their books – Al Shaykh’s The Locust and the Bird: My Mother’s Story, Humaydan’s The Weight of Paradise – the panel will explore the female characters of their novels and the societal causes they reflect. Entry is free.

An award-winning Lebanese novelist, Hanan Al-Shaykh’s work is heavily influenced by the patriarchal controls under which she was raised. Al-Shaykh’s work is a social commentary on the status of women in the Arab-Muslim world, in which she challenges notions of sexuality, obedience, modesty, and familial relations. Hanan will be speaking about her novel, The Locust and the Bird: My Mother’s Story, which is a biography of a Muslim woman from Lebanon (her mother), who dared to make her own choices.

Humaydan is a Lebanese writer, researcher and creative writing professor, and author of four books. In her work, both literary and academic, Humaydan is concerned with memories of war and the lives of women. She is a co-founder and president of PEN Lebanon and a board member of PEN International. Iman will discuss the female image of the self and the female image of the other through the female protagonists in her last novel The Weight of Paradise.

Hanan Al Shaykh
Writer
Independent

Hanan al-Shaykh is one of the most acclaimed writers in the contemporary Arab world. She is the author of seven novels, including The Story of Zahra, Women of Sand & Myrrh, Beirut Blues, Only in London, as well as the collection of stories, I Sweep the Sun off Rooftops, and her much praised memoir of her mother’s life: The Locust and the Bird. She has written two plays, Dark Afternoon Tea and Paper Husband, and published One Thousand and One Nights, an adaptation of some of the stories from the legendary Alf Layla Wa Laya the Arabian Nights. Her latest novel, The Occasional Virgin, was published by Bloomsbury in 2018. Her work has been translated into twenty-eight languages. She lives in London.

Iman Humaydan
Writer and Professor
Independent

​​Iman Humaydan is a Lebanese writer, researcher and academic. She is the co-founder and current President of PEN Lebanon, and a board member of PEN International. She has worked in the field of cultural journalism and published four novels: B as in Beirut, Wild Mulberries, Other Lives and The Weight of Paradise. These have been translated into many international languages; most recently, Armenian and Georgian. Her last novel, The Weight of Paradise, won the Katara Prize, and its French translation was shortlisted for the 2017 Prix de la littérature arabe awarded by the Institut du Monde Arabe in Paris. Her writings tackle post-war and gender issues, memory, identity, language and migration. She aims to make women writers’ voices audible. Humaydan has also edited a collection of 15 short stories about Beirut entitled Beirut Noir, translated into English and published in 2015 by the New York publisher Akashic Books. She collaborated in writing the screenplay for the film “Here Comes the Rain”, which was based on her academic research on families of those who disappeared during the Lebanese civil war. The film won numerous Lebanese and international awards. Another screenplay, “Asmahan, Une Diva Orientale”, focused on the life of the Lebanese/Syrian singer Asmahan. Between 2007 and 2014, she taught creative writing at the University of Iowa and, since 2015, has been teaching creative writing in the Paris 8 University Saint-Denis, France. She is currently writing her fifth novel and lives between Paris and Beirut.

30th June, 6.30 – 7.30pm 

Partner/s Details
Arts Council England, Shubbak Festival.

Event Coordinator
Raghad Mardini
Director
Litehouse Gallery Limited
Phone: +447497106676
Email: raghad@litehousegallery.com

VELVET SOCIETY: Elena Cecchinato, Which Story, Whose Histories? 9July 2022

Event Type
Workshop

Event Title
Which Story, Whose Histories?

General Information
This free two-part workshop hosted by artist Elena Cecchinato is aimed at refugee children and adults. Participants will learn to rework a vintage photograph, giving new life and narrative to it by a stitching and weaving process that will spark new visual conversations with time and memory. Bring an old photo that means something to you. All materials will be provided. The second part of this workshop will take place at Garrett Anderson secondary school.​​

Over two hours, the artists will facilitate participants in exploring fabrics, image making and archiving. This educational session includes:

  • Demonstration of different stitching techniques on paper
  • Live artwork making with photographs and thread or with fabrics
  • Live Q&A for students to ask the artist and the curator questions

Both images and clothes, with their signs and meanings, are necessary to our sense of space and charge our reality. They are vehicles and mediums to unite and conceive reality, working between the ‘I’ and the world, the interior and the exterior, the knowing and the doing. They allow an opportunity for us not to be subdued by the world, but rather interact with it, transforming it always into new narratives. As in a laboratory participants will explore their imaginations and memory via a “re-weaving” / “re-imaging” exercise. By learning how to embroider old photographs, we will directly experience how perception and memory itself is about change, reworking, reweaving.

Elena Cecchinato
Artist
Independent

Elena Cecchinato works in different mediums, primarily drawing, from a diverse range of sources including music, philosophy, economics, science and religion.  From these she creates densely layered imagery that both repeats and creates something entirely new. Recently her focus has been on the themes of invisibility, transformation and abstraction.

Cecchinato was born in Venice, Italy. She learned Korean and Chinese painting at Korea University in Seoul before obtaining an MA in the History of Art of Africa and Asia from SOAS, University of London. Her work has been shown internationally, as well as in London at the Westbourne Studios, Area 10Ps, and The Rug Factory. She has worked with the Royal Hospital for Integrated Medicine and the Warwick Festival of Literature and Spoken Word. The Museum of Everything has also featured Elena’s works, as part of its exhibition#2 at Tate Modern. Most recently she has shown Transpadovano at Palazzo Moroni, Padova, in Italy; Turf at Cutlog NY, USA; and has collaborated with the Roundabout.Lx Collective and the River of Thoughts Residency hosted by Olho du Boi, both in Lisbon, Portugal.

 

9th July, 2.30 – 4.30pm

 Partner/s Details
Arts Council England, Counterpoints Arts as part of Refugee Week

Event Coordinator
Raghad Mardini
Director
Litehouse Gallery Limited
Phone: +447497106676
Email: raghad@litehousegallery.com

VELVET SOCIETY: Webinar, Intersectional Feminism in the Middle East 16July 2022

Event Type
Talk

Event Title
Intersectional Feminism in the Middle East

General Information
Lebanese designer and activist, Rana Khoury will speak about her social enterprise ‘Phenomenal Women’, which links women living in difficult situations and survivors of gender-based violence to better opportunities and help them leave the never-ending cycle of violence.

Rana Khoury, Creative Director and Social Entrepreneur, is behind most of the gender equality award winning campaigns coming out from the Arab region.
Her work has won many international awards amongst which 18 Cannes Lions, but also from D&AD, EPICA, EFFIES, CAPLES, LYNX to name a few. She also served in regional and international juries. She has dedicated the last years of her career to campaigns that would bring real change on the ground, and many of those she worked on have had a huge impact on the community in both Lebanon and the region and contributed to real change on institutional levels. Khoury also taught at the American University of Beirut a Creative Writing class for Media and Communication.
Recently, she established a social enterprise called “Phenomenal Women” that links women from difficult backgrounds, survivors of domestic violence, trafficking, sexual abuse and discrimination to training opportunities and job prospects.
More information on how to attend the online event will be released soon.
This event is promoted and supported by Arts Council England and Shubbak Festival.

Name: Rana Khoury
Title field: Designer and activist
Organisation: Phenomenal Women

Saturday 16th July, 6.30 – 7.30 pm

Partner/s Details
Arts Council England, Shubbak Festival.

Event Coordinator
Raghad Mardini
Director
Litehouse Gallery Limited
Phone: +447497106676
Email: raghad@litehousegallery.com

In Which Language do we dream?

16 October 2021
Impressions Gallery

We are familiar with the news headlines and the photographic images of the so-called ‘refugee crisis’. But what happens after displacement to those who are resettled and try to rebuild their lives? What about personal stories, and the relationships that form between new friends and new neighbors? And how do people hold on to loved ones and a past life that they had to leave behind? In Which Language Do We Dream? offers fresh insights into these issues, through the photographic perspectives of a Syrian family with first-hand experience.

The overarching questions/provocations of the symposium are:

How might photography ethically represent refugee stories?
How do displaced artists work between cultures and across borders?
Can photographs help change the traditional media narratives around forced migration?

A rich and provocative presentations and discussion by Rich Wiles, Anan Tello, Andrew Jackson, Gohar Dashti, and Ala Busier chaired by Raghad Mardini

The symposium is part of Platforma 6 that is taking place across Yorkshire throughout October 2021, produced by Counterpoints Arts in partnership with more than 20 different organizations, artists and collectives. This biennial festival for the arts by, with and about refugees. It brings together artists, organizations, and others to showcase work, develop networks and capacity, share practice and to learn.







“Homes. Syrian stories through artists’ eyes”

“Homes. Syrian stories through artists’ eyes”
Project launch to the European Parliament, Brussels, 24th April 2018

On 24th April, the artistic festival Homes. Syrian Stories through Artists’ Eyes will be presented at the European Parliament, Brussels, during the second Brussels international conference on “Supporting the Future of Syria and the region”, hosted by the European Union and co-chaired by the United Nations.

The travelling festival was conceived by the cultural association L’Art9 and Litehouse with the aim to give a voice to the Syrian culture.

The panel discussion will be hosted by MEP Silvia Costa and MEP Maria Teresa Giménez Barbat, with the participation of Diego Marani, Cultural Diplomacy expert, European External Action Service, and the artist Manaf Halbouni.

The debate will focus on the role of art as a means of cultural exchange, in particular on the work of Syrian artists currently living in Europe.

Since 2011 the situation in Syria has forced over 5 million people to flee from their homes. The festival Homes. Syrian Stories through Artists’ Eyes aims at echoing the voices dispersed by the Syrian diaspora and exploring the roots of their common cultural identity.

The project is constructed in form of a real journey, organized in several steps and featuring different contents. As a dynamic and on-going project, the festival includes talented artists who share a non-negotiable identity despite the loss of social anchorages.

The featured works will display individual stories, fragments of a community which is scattered across the world.

The festival, curated by Agnese Gallo and Silvia Amoruso, co-founders of L’Art9 and Raghad Mardini, founder of Litehouse, aims at raising awareness about these personal stories and testimonies, while looking towards the possible future of the Syrian people in Europe and elsewhere.

Many events will be held in the framework of this festival, starting from an exhibition at

the Mudec, Museum of Cultures of Milan, Italy (5 -20 May 2018).

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