EU National Institutes for Culture - EUNIC

Morocco, Algeria and Egypt

Morocco, Algeria and Egypt
Shaeirat poet Rasha Omran performing "The one who lived in the house before me" at Festival d'Avignon 2022. Photo: Christophe Raynaud de Lage

The larger Arab public in all age groups is attached to spoken poetry events, but opportunities are rare. The Shaeirat project strengthens quantity and quality through organizing performances in cultural venues, readings in libraries, book signings in bookstores, workshops in universities and high schools, lectures, etc., and will provide multiple opportunities for multiple Arab audiences to renew or establish a relationship with spoken word Arabic contemporary poetry.

The Shaeirat project aims to build a regional as well as international network in the MENA region that will organise public bilingual poetry performances of Arab women poets perform their own works. The objective is to encourage and strengthen the exchange of poetry and cultural performance within Arabic speaking societies as well as in Europe.Building on the success of the premiere of the project launched in the Festival of Avignon July 2022, the project will create the first editions of Arabic International Performed Poetry festivals in 3 Arab countries: Morocco, Egypt, Algeria.

The female poets joining Shaeirat project will perform their poetry also in other countries than in the ones they’re living in. They will equally be involved in the programming, mediation, and promotion of the performances before and when they come to their own countries.

Empowering Arab women poets and strengthening Arabic/European bilingualism

The transnational context is that of a fractured Arab world, politically and culturally: bringing contemporary poetry embodied by women across borders is a powerful manifesto: the Shaeirat project is a vital affirmation that Arab language is alive, and therefore that Arab peoples are alive. In local contexts, poetry is very popular in the form of poetry performance.

The international Arabic scope of the project, facilitating the communication of the events, increases the project’s impact, especially with the direct involvement of the poets in the countries where they are living. At all levels, local target audiences benefit from direct and horizontal access to artists of international stature in their own language but thanks to the translation.

All performances - 22 in Morocco, 12 in Egypt, and 6 in Algeria - will be accompanied by a variety of meetings, workshops, and mediations will be set up with different partners and audiences (the education sector, the book chain, etc.). Besides the performances, the poets will be leading concept development and creative production (poetry, performance, and of public poetry festivals) reaching out into MENA and Europe, which has has no precedent in the region.

I feel seen and heard when my words are delivered in my own voice and language and with my physical presence on stage. I also find translation to be the highest form of art, as it gives an entirely new life to something that already has a life of its own, and the Shaeirat project precisely does that: adding life to life.

Carol Sansour, Poet and co manager of the Shaeirat Collective

One of the driving forces is the translation of this variety of Arabic poetry into various languages to reach out to EU member states and their neighbourhood. As a result, Arabic poetry performances within the MENA region will contribute to the increase of translated Arabic poems and this will strengthen Arabic/European language bilingualism. Cooperation with the European partners will support access of Arab poetry and poetesses to institutions and contexts in Europe. In turn, this recognition in Europe will enhance the status of the artists and their works in the MENA region.

Whereas Europe has been present in the Arabic speaking world through translation and cultural influences throughout decades, Arabic cultural production translated into European languages, leave alone poetry, has been reduced to a limited number of names and works, mainly male. The bilingual approach also brings languages on par with each other. Shaeirat wants to make a powerful statement in a different direction: Europe is interested in the Arab world and their thinkers, their stories and their people.

Co-funded by the European Union Views and opinions expressed are however those of the author(s) only and do not necessarily reflect those of the European Union or the European Education and Culture Executive Agency (EACEA). Neither the European Union nor EACEA can be held responsible for them.