9/01/2017 Peter Durantine

Arab Arts Festival to Showcase a Rich Culture

The cover of a 1940s Mîkî comics book features Mickey Mouse in Arab headdress, waving his signature white-gloved hand and standing under the title, “Return to Palestine.”

The comic, an adaptation created by an unidentified Arab illustrator, is part of a traveling exhibit, “Arab Comics: 90 Years of Popular Visual Culture,” showing at Franklin & Marshall College’s Phillips Museum of Art from Sept. 6 through Dec. 8.

The exhibit is part of the College’s Arab Arts Festival, an exploration of the roles played by music, literature and art in shaping the narratives about the Arab world. Youth culture is a particular focus, highlighted by internationally known Iraqi-Canadian educator, hip-hop MC, and multimedia artist Yassin ‘Narcy’ Alsalman (formerly known as The Narcicyst).

Festival organizers say the event has two purposes: to demonstrate the rich culture and life of the Arab and Muslim worlds, and to reveal how art has contributed to the social and political changes occurring across North Africa and the Middle East today.    

“Artists and musicians were instrumental in revolutions that broke out in the Arab world several years ago,” said F&M Assistant Professor of Anthropology Bridget Guarasci. “A rapper in Egypt and a rapper in Tunisia played powerful, pivotal roles in the revolutions in those countries.”

Alsalman will participate in a panel discussion about Arab youth culture in the Middle East and the diaspora and meet with students during his visit to F&M. The panel discussion, in the Phillips Museum at 7 p.m. Monday, Sept. 25, includes Arab Comics exhibit curator Nadim Damluji and Laith Majali, a renowned photographer and film editor who co-produced the 2016 Academy Award-nominated film, “Theeb.”

The following evening, at 8 p.m. Tuesday, Sept. 26, Narcy, who has collaborated and shared the stage with hip-hop luminaries such as Talib Kweli and Yasiin Bey (aka Mos Def), among many others, will perform as well as present an art installation in F&M’s Green Room Theatre.

Other festival events:

  • Sinan Antoon, an Iraqi scholar, novelist and poet considered one of today’s most important Arab writers, will read from his works at 7 p.m. Thursday, Oct. 12, at the Philadelphia Alumni Writers House.
  • “Speed Sisters,” a film about the first all-women racecar driving team in the Arab world, will screen 7 p.m. Thursday, Oct. 26, at the Phillips Museum.
  • Anthropologist Sherine Hamdy will discuss her novel, “Lissa,” and screen her documentary by the same name at 7 p.m. Thursday, Nov. 16, at the Philadelphia Alumni Writers House.

See events calendar for the full list.


  • Iraqi-Canadian educator, hip-hop MC, and multimedia artist Yassin ‘Narcy’ Alsalman will participate in a panel discussion and perform in the Green Room Theatre. Image Credit: Cheb Moha
  • An early 1940s Arab adaptation of Mickey Mouse.
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