2022: A unique year for Arab Artists

by Bassem Hafez

The Arab community living in Calgary, despite being among those with the highest education, has not enjoyed a coherent front that aims for a better representation. The Calgary Arab Arts & Culture Society (CAACS) has been trying to do its part. Bringing films that manifest the diverse background and character of the “Arab”, has been one of the main objectives of the different artistic products of the Society.

An example of the challenges of the how the Arab is represented has been making the distinction between the Arab and the Muslim. Another example is the fact that not all Arabs are Muslims.

The discussions after films screened by the CAACS reflect a lot to be learned. We at the society believe in the utility of the arts to ignite this civilized interaction between the different members of our public sphere. Hence, we have been hoping for the mushrooming of Arab artists to add to the Canadian cultural mosaic.

The arrival of Syrian refugees allowed for that potential. We have been witnessing the proliferation of arts expressions be Syrian newcomers, who inspired more Arabs to step forward.

During the past few years, CAACS has been proud to provide an avenue to a wide range of Syrian artists. CAACS was proud to expand its repertoire by having Syrian theatre to play during its Calgary Arab Film Nights Festival. Later on, CAACS presented a Syrian visual artist to perform live painting during the festival. Independently, in CAACS’ Pop Corn & Skype event at the Military Museum, we had a public discussion with a Syrian MRU women’s studies professor.

This year, our own Syrian theatre artist launched his dream, the Canadian Arab Theatre, Kawalease ACT. The launching brought to the forefront a potential for Arab theatre enthusiasts get inspired to perform at the first Arabic theatre production. We’re proud that the play “Interrogation” is written by one of our board members.

Hence, in our current year, 2022, an Arab theatre company is launched; our film festival is celebrating its 10th anniversary; and our board members are branching out to launch an Arabic radio station, to head the Calgary Justice Film Festival.

Among our volunteers, we are proud to play the first production of our own Rawd Almasoud, “Uncivilized” at our Canadian Eye on the Arab World, the opening night of our 10th festival.

On strategic expansion, the Calgary Arab Arts & Culture Society will have an Arabic feature played at the Calgary European Film Festival, CEFF. We are also having a short played at the Calgary Justice Film Festival, CJFF. In addition, we are partnering with the Okotoks Film Festival to showcase the Egyptian cinema in their upcoming round, in June 2023.

Arab members of the community are thriving artistically, and the Calgary Arab Arts & Culture Society, after ten years of existence, have been proudly part of these positive developments.


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