Siska presenting at Liverpool John Moores University (c) Mackenzie Argent
Siska presenting at Liverpool John Moores University (c) Mackenzie Argent

The Liverpool Arab Arts Festival is returning to Merseyside this summer, with the much-anticipated Port Cities exhibition.

The Event

Port Cities is an all-new international visual arts project held in partnership with the British Council. It will present a celebration of the social, historical and cultural complexities of port cities in North Africa & the Middle East, as well as Liverpool.

The event will premiere in Liverpool, before touring port cities in Lebanon, Egypt, Morocco and Tunisia.

Four international artists with connections to port cities have been commissioned for this exhibition: Nadia Kaabi-Linke, Siska,Mohamed Abdelkarim and Laila Hida.

In February of this year, each artist took up a spell of residency in Liverpool to experience the culture of the city and to gain inspiration for their own contributions to the Port Cities exhibition.

The Artists: Siska

Siska is a Lebanese visual artist who specialises in video and photographic art. His work has centred around migration, classical cinema and graphic design, and social issues in his current place of residence in Berlin.

He has previously created art centred around the topic of port cities in his interactive online exhibit Port Fiction, about the connection between Hamburg and Beirut.

His recent work has focused on the aftermath of the catastrophic explosion that occurred in Beirut – the place of his birth – in 2020, that caused thousands to migrate across the globe, but prominently to the German capital Berlin, where he currently resides.

Siska demonstrating his work on Port Fiction (c) Siska, LJMU

“After the explosion, the city (Beirut) only gets a couple hours of electricity a day” he said.

“I’m interested in the concept of exile. I was pushed to immigrate to Berlin, and the same happened to thousands of my people after the disaster … we were exiled from our country”.

Of his ambitions with the Port Cities exhibition, he said: “I’d like to look at the history of Liverpool – I’m particularly interested in the history of slavery and the waterfront”.

Nadia Kaabi-Linke

Nadia Kaabi-Linke is a Tunisian born artist that was raised between a number of prominent cities – Tunis, Dubai, Kyiv and Paris. Of Ukrainian and Tunisian heritage, her art has won a number of awards and been exhibited in multiple countries.

Nadia’s work is focused on physical exhibits. She has a public art feature in the Belgian city of Bruges titled “Inner Circle” that demonstrates the separation of people and lack of a community feel within the city.

Within that which is little, I find huge things

Another concept that she has explored within her art is that of the invisible, creating illusionary shadows (such as her piece All along the watchtower an illusionary shadow of a watchtower which gives the impression of being watched) and exposing that which tends to be hidden.

She said: “Within that which is little, I find huge things”.

Having visited Liverpool before in 2012, Nadia has some ideas of where she wants to go with her exhibit for Port Cities. She said “I want to explore maybe the old industrial history of the city. I like the old buildings, you can feel the history in the city.

She also spoke of how she wants to express herself with her art: “This time around, I don’t want to make sense. I want to make something surreal, something bizarre.

“I’m going to explore, and see where my creativity takes me!”

Mohamed Abdelkarim

Mohamed Abdelkarim is an Egyptian artist who lives and works between Cairo, Rotterdam and Vienna, where he’s currently studying for a Ph.D. at Akademie der bildenden Künste.

Mohamed’s work is mostly performance oriented – he considers performance a form of research. He has been shortlisted for awards for his work with spoken word pieces and video storytelling.

An area in which he has done recent exploration is the landscape of the future, and blurring the lines between man and machine. He experiments with music, poetry and film to research new ideas about the topic at hand, and aims to do the same through the Port Cities exhibition.

Laila Hida

Laila Hida is a Moroccan visual artist who explores physical and symbolic spaces. Born in Casablanca and currently based in Marrakesh, she is the founder of the multidisciplinary arts space LE18 located in the city.

Through LE18, Laila has explored artistic work through an entrepreneurial form, as well as provided a hub for art, learning, and experimentation for the local community in Marrakesh.

She is also a self-taught photographer and cultural activist – much of her work was based around photography of the world around her, but her recent pieces have been more introspective, exploring the subject of the self.

Featured image (c) Siska, LJMU


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