Monday, February 07, 2011

Beirut39 Artists' Residencies in Fez

Three Writers and Ten Poets in Fes

"From early in its history, Fes has been both a refuge and a convener of some of the greatest minds in the Arab world", explains Lori Wood of Fes Medina. "We are delighted to extend this ancient tradition of welcome in Fes to a new generation of Arab writers, and beyond".

This month there are three Arab writers in residence in the Fez medina. They are all winners of the Beirut39 literary prize, and are in the city to complete their latest work. Lori is a long-term but part-time resident of Fez. Here she tells us about the programme:

During the month of February 2011, the Fes medina welcomes three Arab writers, winners of the Beirut39 literary prize, for the first in what we hope will be a tradition of literary and artistic residencies in the medina of Fes. Palestinian writer Adania Shibli, Saudi novelist Yahya Amqassim, and Lebanese novelist and poet Hyam Yared are now being hosted in restored traditional houses throughout the medina of Fes. Each house has been donated by its owner as a gift of time to these writers, who are now working in these quiet environments toward the completion of their current literary work.

Yahya Amqassim

Hyam Yared

The Beirut39 literary prize was awarded to 39 Arab writers under the age of 39, from 13 Arab countries, who were chosen from over 480 nominations worldwide by an independent panel of judges. Beirut39 is a project of the Hay Festival in Wales, with the goal of identifying and exposing a new generation of Arab writers to a worldwide audience. The Beirut39 authors were featured in a literary festival in Beirut in April 2010, and the Hay Festival will present these authors in their international literary festivals from Wales to Bogota to Nairobi in the coming years. Bloomsbury has published Beirut39, an anthology of these writers’ work, in Arabic and English. Copies of the anthology are available at the new ALIF Bookstore in Fes’ Ville Nouvelle. Copies are also available for browsing at Café Clock in the Fes medina.

This residency in the Fes medina is part of a worldwide series of residencies offered to the Beirut39 authors by 24 members of the Alliance of Artists Communities, a US-based organization dedicated to supporting creative residencies for artists of any discipline in the development of new work. Beirut39 authors will be hosted in unique sites around the world, from California and New Mexico to New York to Istanbul, the Italian Riviera, the south of France, and in Fes. The authors’ travel and public engagement activities are supported by grants from the Doris Duke Foundation for Islamic Art and the National Endowment for the Arts. Alliance of Artists Communities member and Fes Medina director Lori Wood serves as the volunteer coordinator for the worldwide residency series. If you are interested in participating in this or future residencies in Fes, please contact Lori at

Five Maghrebi and Five European Poets Work Together in Fes
Public Reading in Fes on February 17th

In an extension of Fes’ literary month this February, the Fes medina also hosts five Arab and five European poets for an intensive, week-long workshop animated by Literature Across Frontiers. From February 11-17, the ten poets will work intensively together in the Fes Medina to exchange their views on poetry and to translate each other’s work, often using a bridge language. The workshop will conclude with a public reading at 6 pm February 17th at the new ALIF Bookstore at 2 Rue Ahmed Hiba in the Ville Nouvelle.

On February 18th, the poets will give a reading at the Casablanca Book Fair. This project is sponsored locally by the American Language Center and Arabic Language Institute in Fez (ALIF), with local coordination donated by Fes Medina. More information on this program can be found here. With special thanks to Dar Fes Medina, Dar Ben Safi, Mostafa Bakkali, Mounia Chebl, Malika Chebl, David Amster, Siham Benchekroun and Fatima Bouhraka.

This non-profit project in Fes is being supported by many hands, and hosted by Fes Medina, which is donating the services of its team for coordination and artist services. Special thanks to the following individuals for the generous donation of their houses during this month: To Siham Benchekroun and Nicolas Guillou for the donation of Dar Jad, to Hafid el Amrani for the donation of Dar Jnane, and to David Amster for the donation of Dar Bennis. Thanks to Tom Jenkins for the donation of Dar Ben Safi for occasional artist dinners.

We welcome interest from anyone who might be interested in becoming part of the informal consortium of organizations and individuals making this possible, this month and in the future. We in particular welcome interest from those willing to host an artist dinner for these writers and 2-3 invited guests this February, and those willing to donate the use of their house for future residencies during the quiet season in Fes.

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