"An extraordinary collection, revealing a dynamic and exciting culture in painful transition – a culture where artists are really making a difference ... You need to read this book."
The Middle East Institute proudly hosted the U.S. launch of Syria Speaks: Art and Culture from the Frontline (Saqi Books, 2014), winner of the English Pen Award. Syria Speaks is a unique anthology showcasing the work of over 50 artists and writers challenging the culture of violence in Syria.
Syrian cinematographer and writer Khalil Younes were joined by co-editors of Syria Speaks: Syrian writer and artist Zaher Omareen, and London based writer Malu Halasa, for panels, film screenings, and book signings on the role of art and culture as a critical line of defense against tyranny and extremism. A testament to the courage, creativity and imagination of the Syrian people, Syria Speaks is a celebration of a people determined to reclaim their dignity and right to self-expression.
The program also included films from the Syrian documentary collective Abounaddara, winner of the Vera List Center Prize for Art and Politics (2014), and from the first-ever Syria's Mobile Phone Film Festival recently held inside the country.
Malu Halasa is an editor and writer based in London. Her books include Creating Spaces of Freedom: Culture in Defiance (2002); Kaveh Golestan: Recording the Truth in Iran (2007) and The Secret Life of Syrian Lingerie: Intimacy and Design (2008), with Rana Salam. She also co-edits the occasional book series, Transit, which features new Middle Eastern writing and visual culture, and includes Transit Beirut (2004) and Transit Tehran (2008), the latter co-edited with with Maziar Bahari. She also co-curated three exhibitions of Syria’s art of resistance in 2012–13 in Amsterdam, Copenhagen and London. Her essays, publications, exhibitions and lectures showcase the culture and politics of a complex and changing Middle East.
Zaher Omareen is a Syrian writer who has worked on independent cultural initiatives in Syria and Europe. His short story ‘First Safety Maneuver’ won a prize awarded by the Danish Institute in Damascus and the 2012 Copenhagen Festival of Literature. Omareen is a participating artist in the Victoria and Albert forthcoming exhibition Disobedient Objects and has been working on the new Syrian art archive at the British Museum. A PhD candidate at Goldsmiths College, he also is completing a collection of short stories drawn from the 1982 Hama massacre.
Khalil Younes is a Syrian artist a freelance Cinematographer, Illustrator and Video Artist. Born in Damascus, Syria, he moved to the United States in 1998. Khalil’s work has been honored in the United States and in Europe. He holds a degree in Cinematography from the Columbia College in Chicago, and a degree in Film/Video from the Massachusetts College of Arts and Design in Boston.