On the 29th March 2017, the Xabaca project was officially presented at the European Institute of the Mediterranean (IEMed), headquarters of the Euro-Mediterranean Women’s Foundation. Xabaca is an initiative from the International Institute for Nonviolent Action (NOVACT), the Al Fanar Foundation and the Barcelona International Residence for Artists and Researchers in Urban Creativity, Jiwar Creation & Society.
Xabaca was born from the commitment to support Arab female artists, in their role as agents of social transformation and against the oppression they are exposed to in their countries of origin because of being women and artists.
Therefore, five artists from four different countries have been invited to Barcelona for a month to develop a residence for artistic creation and attend some meetings with local artists and human rights organizations. The main goals are to break the isolation of these artists, explore the links between arts and political change and discuss about artists’ freedom of speech in Arab countries. Thus, the role of artists in peacebuilding and the pressure exerted on female artists when they transgress social rules and propose a women’s point of view, plus some conventional images that appear in the society and certain media, are directly questioned in the Xabaca initiative.
Besides the selected artists for this first edition, the presentation was moderated by Émilie Vidal (IEMed - Euro-Mediterranean Women's Foundation), Aixa Drammeh (Espai Avinyó) and Thais Bonilla (NOVACT) who introduced and contextualized the initiative in front of a large audience (100 people).
The artists presented their work and explained their experiences regarding the reception of this work in their countries of origin, but also talked about their impressions after the residence in Barcelona. The first intervention was by the two Moroccan filmmakers Houda Lakhdar and Sofia Aissaoui. After the screening of their short film "Zahra" about women's situation in Moroccan society, the artists presented themselves as activists that seek to give voice to women who don’t have one.
The second artist who participated was the Tunisian illustrator Farah Ben Mansour. She explained her trajectory in the art world and talked about her works like "I’m not here" that wonders about the concept of “perfection” (expected/imposed) by women; "Arab Divas" that aims to represent key female cultural icons from the Arab world; "Fusion" related to the emotions of loneliness; "Harem" which is a tribute to the Arab beauty and love. Within the framework of the Xabaca project, she interviewed different women she met in Barcelona about their dreams and ambitions.
Thirdly, the Lebanese visual artist Fatima Mortada defined herself as a political artist and shared her experiences on social censorship. In a patriarchal society where nudity is seen as something bad that is against morality, her works of a sexual nature are sometimes not appreciated at their fair value. She showed many of her innovative works that offer a mix of paintings, sewing and video.
Finally, the Palestinian singer and songwriter Haya Zaatry stated that her work is strongly influenced by the pursuit of identity because of the Israeli occupation that its people are suffering. She played the songs "Borders and Promises" and "Manakir"; this one talks about people who run against society.
Watch a video of Haya Zaatry playing one of these songs (attached to this page)!
A report of the presentation is available in Spanish.
This platform is part of the Axis 1 "Strengthening the capacities of equality actors" of the Priority Solidarity Fund "Women for the future in the Mediterranean" funded by the French Ministry of Europe and Foreign Affairs and led by the European Institute of the Mediterranean, in the framework of the project “Developing Women's Empowerment” labelled by the Union for the Mediterranean.