Dardishi Festival to showcase the cultural production of Arab and North African womxn

Dardishi aims to showcase the cultural production of Arab and North African womxn

Sabrina Mahfouz hosts a creative writing workshop on Sat 9 Mar / credit: Matt Writtle

New Glasgow festival will see performances, workshops and film screenings taking place across International Women's Day weekend

Dardishi Festival is a community-focused arts festival which aims to showcase the cultural production of Arab and North African womxn (the term 'womxn' is used to include non-binary and intersex people, and trans women). Born out of the online magazine Dardishi.com – a platform run by Arab and North African womxn to share their art, music and writing – the festival is essentially an extension of the zine, and will see performances, workshops and film screenings taking place across International Women's Day weekend (Fri 8–Sun 10 Mar). On the opening night of the festival (Fri 8 Mar), Dardishi will launch the first printed issue of their zine which is an exciting step for everyone involved in the Dardishi community.

The festival aims to provide a counter environment to the hostile one created by the rise of right-wing politics in the UK and abroad, and the resulting normalisation of racist, sexist, homophobic and anti-refugee rhetoric in the mainstream British press. We spoke to Dardishi co-founder and festival organiser Samar Ziadat to find out more.

How did Dardishi Festival come to be? It seems like a really cool initiative, can you tell us more?

Dardishi began as an online zine – which my sister Yasmine Ziadat and I launched on International Women's Day back in 2016. The online zine, which still runs on our website today, exclusively publishes art and writing by Arab and North African womxn. My sister and I have always been incredibly close – she is the person I turn to for everything – she is my best friend and my closest confidant. Through our teenage years we both faced sexism and racism, and despite the fact that our experiences were very different, we battled through it together. The idea of starting an online zine came when my sister was an A-level student, and I was in the last year of my undergraduate degree in Art History and English Literature. We were both growing increasingly frustrated with the mainstream media's portrayal of women like us, and those who were much less privileged than us, so we decided to take it into our own hands and publish work that we felt represented the experiences of our community. We got in contact with our friends for content, I built the website, and suddenly we had a huge community of womxn who wanted to have their work published, and to read the work of other people like them. More recently, my sister stepped aside to pursue her career as a lawyer, I have continued to expand Dardishi into a print zine and festival here in Glasgow!

Having been an online publication since 2016, what made you decide to launch in print this year too?

When we first launched Dardishi we were students, so we had no funding and couldn't afford to print the zine. We also wanted the zine to be free and accessible to as many people as possible, and even if we distributed it for free by raising the money to cover the costs of printing, the womxn we wanted to reach would end up paying exorbitant international postage fees. So, without funding, and with the hopes of our zine reaching as many people as possible, we felt that the best option would be to launch online! Since we launched our online zine, I've met with many Arab and North African womxn who found me through our website. Meeting these womxn in person has been hugely transformative and beautiful, and because of that, I started working to expand the Dardishi experience beyond the digital realm.

As well as launching a crowdfunding campaign for Dardishi Festival, I also began running live events and publishing some of our material on paper: I've co-edited a publication of Palestinian womxn's writing with Document Human Rights Film Festival, programmed a strand of queer Arab film at SQIFF, ran a zine-making session at Glasgow Zine Festival, and presented at events by Museum Association, Scottish Contemporary Art Network, Tabloid Art History and Museums Galleries Scotland. The response to the crowdfunder and my efforts to add a physical, more personal element to Dardishi has been huge – with people of all backgrounds wanting to attend our events and own copies of a printed zine made by us – so it seemed only natural to launch the festival and a zine to go with it.

What element(s) of Dardishi Festival are you most excited about?

I'm excited to meet with other Arab and North African womxn, to revel in the wonderful work that we've produced together, and to share it with the incredible audience we've gained over the years.

Full details of the programme for Dardishi Festival can be found at dardishi.com/events, and tickets are being kept at a low cost (£0-12) to make this event as inclusive as possible.

Dardishi

Community focused arts festival that shines a light on Arab and North African womxn's contributions to contemporary art and culture.

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