The Arab World Festival of Montreal: experiencing intercultural exchanges through art

Don’t miss out on this festival of encounters and fusions between Eastern and Western worlds

The 23rd edition of The Arab World Festival of Montreal (FMA) is currently underway in the city until Nov. 13.

All are welcome to join this eclectic festival, which offers both free and ticketed events — from performing arts spectacles to cultural forums/conferences and cinematic experiences.

The Concordian had the pleasure of discussing the importance of this unique Montreal festival with the FMA’s communications and programming assistant Céline Camus.

Camus explained that the FMA “aims to be a meeting place, where many artists point out the similarities between Arab cultures but also the cultures of the rest of the world, whether in the East or in the West.”

This dynamic festival, where such dialogues are artistically facilitated and celebrated, is important in “a city like Montreal where diversity is the very essence of life,” added Camus.

The theme of this year’s edition is Corporeal: When the Flesh Dictates the Story! It is all about acknowledging the physical abilities and limitations of the body, while honouring the self in connection with the world.

During the FMA, visitors can expect to see local and international artists/intellectuals explore the corporeal theme through artworks, dances, and films in relation to their distinct and varied Arab cultures.

The Art of Skin: Body Painting Workshop and Live Painting were two events that took place on Nov. 1 at the Kawalees Cultural Cabaret as part of the festival. This low-key bar located in the Mile End neighbourhood had a quaint café-like vibe, which offered a vibrant yet relaxed setting for artist Zoya Tavangar’s intimate painting show.

During the Body Painting Workshop, Tavangar painted on a model’s face. Rather than using the model as a visual muse, Tavangar used the model’s face as a canvas itself. Drawing inspiration from the artistic and symbolic expression of tattoos, Tavangar colourfully re-painted a face on the model’s face, which — as she explained to the audience — “is in the art style of Cubism.”

Tavangar then proceeded onto the Live Painting event, where she painted a blue, realism-style portrait of a young woman. While Tavangar was focused on her painting, festival-goers were able to view her work up-close, or observe from their tables while having drinks or even ordering hummus and pita to snack on.

One such festival-goer that The Concordian was able to chat with was Redouane Ali who was experiencing the FMA for the first time.

“When I heard about this festival, it definitely interested me,” he said. Ali added that he specifically chose to visit The Art of Skin events because “after a busy day at work, watching an artist paint live while being able to have dinner seemed cool and therapeutic.”  

The FMA is a Montreal gem and should not be overlooked. For those still interested in partaking in the festival, here is a list of shows and events that are still available!

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