Shubbak Festival: Hafla On The Square

Believe it or not, food is not my only interest. Representation of culture has long since been a fascination, particularly concerning the in-betweeners, the hybrids, the hyphenated people who seem to populate London so abundantly. Shubbak (meaning "window") is the city's biennial celebration and insight into contemporary Arab and Middle Eastern culture. The scope of the festival features art exhibitions; street fairs; workshops; live performances and debates, spanning from 11-26 July.

As the official-unofficial photographer for Variant Space, I followed the artists Nasreen Raja and Nasreen Shaikh Jamal Al Lail who presented their installation "Stories Untold". Each block was painted, printed and stamped individually by the artists with a different tale to tell. As a moving interactive display, visitors also had the chance to illustrate a block and add their story to the display, which will be presented at future exhibitions.

On a more personal note, the Nasreens have been supportive of Girl With The Golden Tiffin since the beginning and to be surrounded by such innovative, kind and creative women is all the motivation I need! In the blistering heat of a Saturday afternoon, the atmosphere around us was full of nothing but positivity. The tantalising beat of the darbouka didn't hurt either...

Possibly the most fun artwork to photograph was the calligraffiti by Libyan Artist El Bohly. I have never seen calligraphy being created live, let alone at such a speedy pace and his mastery was beautiful! El Bohly is often hailed as a pioneer of the street art culture in Libya, with messages often regarding revolution; equality and human rights. 

Meeting so many Arab and Middle Eastern artists left me feeling inspired by their culture. After talking to Nasreen about chapati and karak and shorba, I've realised that Middle Eastern food is is so much more complex than your average hummus and shish taouk. If you have any suggestions of Middle Eastern recipes that are amazing (but surprisingly unpopular in the West) please let me know!