After a memorable launch in the bustling capital of Beirut, the Moussem Cities festival, which this year is centred on Damascus, is about to take over the most exciting cultural spaces in Brussels for a month of artistic festivities. A chance to discover the work of Syrian visual artists, musicians, performers, and writers who work, for the most part, outside of the country, but who are no less profoundly connected to Damascus and to its painful experience of war. The festival in five highlights.
The war defaced the Syrian landscape, but it also transformed its serene sky into a maelstrom of smoke and fire. The collective exhibition “Kashash” (“keeper or breeder of pigeons” in Arabic), curated by Alma Salem, invites artists, researchers, and pigeon-keepers to reclaim the roofs and high places of Damascus, which were brutally confiscated by the conflict. So that pigeons can once again fly in peaceful skies.
2 > 28/2 (opening: 1/2, 19.00), Bozar
Considered the “queen of the qanun”, a stringed instrument that is plucked, which is very widespread in the Arab world and with which she fell in love at the age of nine during a taxi ride, Maya Youssef enchanted the whole world with her first album Syrian Dreams, released in 2017. Its compositions convey the richness of her influences (Arab, Turkish, Azeri and Armenian traditional music, jazz, and flamenco); the artist, who lives in London, dedicated the album to her homeland. “I consider playing music to be an act of hope,” she says.
2/2, 20.00, Bozar
The Creative Memory of the Syrian Revolution
The Syrian revolution was creatively liberating for many Syrian artists and intellectuals. It compelled them to finally express themselves the way they wanted, despite the threats and intimidation. To prevent all this productivity from simply evaporating, a project entitled “The Creative Memory of the Syrian Revolution” set about preserving this wealth of Syrian cultural heritage on a website. The exhibition at Globe Aroma presents a sample of this treasure trove.
6 > 28/2 (opening: 5/2, 19.00), Globe Aroma
In Damascus Café, a Syrian actor, director, and writer who lives in Zürich, Lubna Abukhair, plays a young Syrian woman who was arbitrarily imprisoned at the start of the Syrian revolution, who goes around the cafes and restaurants of Damascus to bring the truth to light about the conditions in which she was kept. She dedicates her mission to the thousands of women who have disappeared, swallowed up by a merciless war.
8 & 9/2, 19.00 & 21.30, Kaaistudio's
Damascus Skies/Damascus underground
Cinéma Nova invites you on a journey under Syrian skies in an exceptional selection of short and feature-length films, including such gems as Under Damascus Skies (1932), a silent melodrama that verges on the surrealist, made by Ismail Anzour and accompanied by a live performance of the clarinet-player Kinan Azmeh, and the award-winning masterpiece Stars in Broad Daylight (1988) by the great Ossama Mohammed.
22 & 23/2, Cinéma Nova