On the Shoulders of Giants: Culture and Heritage

It’s a great thing to be able to look back to look forward, to understand our past so we can imagine our future. But when the MFest team were putting together the programme for this year’s inaugural festival, we thought a lot about understanding how we got to where we are today. We wanted to use an exploration of Muslim history that we rarely get to hear about, to better understand our present, especially the political, cultural and artistic discussions that we find ourselves immersed in.

On Saturday, we’ve invited Luc Ferrier to present us with some challenging ideas about the role of Muslims in the First World War. Are the stories of our ancestors as commanders, soldiers, labourers and slaves, a way of understanding the journeys that our collective heritage has taken? Or should we be wary of the way our military contribution can be framed in current contexts?

If panel discussions aren’t your thing, let Amina Khayyam show you the storytelling power of Kathak Dance. Try your hand at mastering a sequence and learn more about the physical ways we capture and share our history.

Later in the day we’ll be joined by Sakinah Lenoir, Amandla Thomas-Johnson and Tanya Muneera Williams to hear more about Muslims in the Caribbean. How do the cultures and identities from the Caribbean Sea interact and meld with a religion that originates in Arabia?  And what does that mean for Muslims of Caribbean heritage living in the UK today?

On Sunday, we start the day with a look back at the representation of non-binary identities in Muslim Art. We’ll be look at art by Muslims and art from predominantly Muslim countries that depict people who are neither male nor female. At noon we explore the impact of the Palestinian Nakba on Palestinian art with singer Reem Kelani, writer Selma Dabbagh and poet Mustafa Abu Sneineh. They’ll look at the subtle and explicit references to the Nakba within their own work and as the 70th anniversary of the Nakba approaches, they’ll discuss its continued relevance to Palestinian artists. In the mid-afternoon we turn to South Asia with a look at the competing narratives around the Bangladesh War of Independence and look at different ways the 1971 war is remembered and archived.