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A Matter of Art: ACEF 2016 Report

22 Dec, 2017 

AFAC through generous individual contributors to the Arab Creativity and Entrepreneurship Fund (ACEF), supports bold projects that challenge stereotypes, that instigate debate and that inspire young people to imagine a better future. Every year since 2014, AFAC invites grantees to share stories about their creative projects and what they instigated at personal or community levels.


It highlights 50 projects in an annual ACEF report, showing an array of examples on how investment in arts and culture contributes to greater forms of open expression; why it stimulates important discussions of relevance to the Arab region; and what it unravels in terms of new perspectives on topics that concern emerging and seasoned artists and cultural institutions.


What would our lives be without arts? What is a society without culture? Is the Arab region with all its potential reduced to crises, violence, war, extremism and repression, or can it positively re-invent itself in all its diversity? Can arts and culture offer clues for deciphering what is in utter dissonance? Can we expand the space where art can stimulate and provoke?


Art matters and its impact is palatable on many levels. That is what we try to show in the ACEF reports. ACEF is now in its fourth year, providing timely support to 50 out of the approximately 150 projects that AFAC grants annually.


The 2016 projects reflect many attributes of positive change, including: Critical thinking; Creating spaces for healing; Capacity building and education; Social cohesion and community development; Civic engagement; Diversity, empathy, and freedom of expression; Promoting gender equality; Shedding light on the marginalized; Resilience in migration and displacement; Preserving heritage; Probing identities; and Stimulating artistic vocations.


The range of topics across all artistic categories is inspiring and provocative. Through documentary film, we follow over five years the life of a teenage girl in Egypt searching for her place in a male-dominant society within a constantly changing country. In another film from Tunisia, the question of how someone can resort to terrorism unfolds. One photo documentary from Sudan talks about skin bleaching and the pressure put on women to live up to a certain notion of beauty but also unravels issues of identity. A music project explores Sawt and Bahri music introducing new arrangements of traditional Kuwaiti songs fused with world jazz music. A theatre performance in Palestine attempts to surpass geographical boundaries, reformulating a common cultural and artistic identity, through a theatrical laboratory. Under research/training/regional events, an initiative in Egypt develops a bi-lingual (Arabic/English) online library cataloguing system which networks together art, culture and architecture with the aim that organizations share their collections through a joint searchable and public access database. A contemporary festival in Iraq connects audiences to Baghdad’s emerging contemporary arts, highlighting a network Iraqi local artists from the young generation, while being a catalyst for new and experimental art practice. A theatre performance engages with a classic Greek tragedy to show how art records, embodies and re-enacts the tragedy unfolding in Syria. A visual arts project scrutinizes the history of the first mental asylum of the Middle-East established in 1898 in Beirut. By combining her photographs and annual reports of the asylum, the artist reflects upon the course of Lebanese history with regards to collective consciousness, modernism and capitalism. A Moroccan singer explores the heritage of traditional Moroccan music, demonstrating the diversity of the Moroccan traditional music, and empowering women to cultivate musical journeys.


The Arab region takes on other dimensions through arts and culture. Browse this colourful and dynamic online report to learn more about exciting initiatives in all artistic fields from the Arab region and in diaspora supported by individual contributors in 2016.


A heartfelt thanks to all contributors who have been engaged with us since 2014 and to those who made fresh contributions to ACEF in 2017.


If you are not on board yet, join the club of AFAC supporters by making your first contribution, or by renewing your esteemed support here to scale up the opportunities for artists and cultural practitioners!

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