The first New York Arab Festival kicked off in New York, with programming all throughout April, celebrating art and culture from the Arab world with art, performances, NFTs, exhibitions and fashion.
The first-annual edition comes as President Biden officially inaugurated April as National Arab American Heritage Month. From fashion designers to artists and musicians, it’s what the festival producer Cindy Sibilsky calls “a celebration of Arab joy.”
The festival aims to “fight the erasure of Arab and Arab-American identity in the city of New York through the celebration of Arab art, culture, and heritage.”
Among the highlights of talents, the festival showcased a number of fashion designers from the Arab world, including Layal Srouji (pictured above), a Palestinian-American artist based in New York City. She works with fibers and textiles to create knit-based pieces for what she calls “functional clothing meets artmaking.” Srouji’s work references maps, land ownership, and agriculture to weave together the Palestinian diaspora into her tactile works. The earth tone hues are “archiving tones of Palestinian land in fibers.”
Meanwhile Monzlapur is an “elevated ready to wear line” created by Mona Hamid, based in Brooklyn. Her gender-fluid designs are also limited-edition attire. “We’ve been in business for five years, we started as a womenswear line but expanded our scope to include menswear—we identify as a gender fluid brand,” said Hamid.
“I’ve been in Brooklyn for seven years, I’m designing for this urban underground scene with an Eastern flair. I grew up in Abu Dhabi in a family who worked in custom couture. I’ve been around textiles, brocades and silks my whole life. It’s about exploring gender fluidity, while remaining texture-focused.”
Meanwhile, the festival put the spotlight on Ego Jasmine, a luxury beauty brand that uses ancient beauty secrets from the Middle East and Africa to create handcrafted organic, sustainable products. They support and employ refugee women to create everyday luxury that honors Damascus, the capital of Syria, which is known as the capital of the Jasmine plant, to encourage the spirit of being “beautifully empowered” and to “believe in yourself.”
The first-annual New York Arab Festival was co-founded by Adam Kucharski, the CEO of Wizara, an organization which focuses on digital art, blockchain-based work and NFTs, and creative director Adham Hafez, founder of the HaRaKa Platform. The festival’s managing director is Marwa Seoudi with producer Cindy Sibilsky.
Women talents were core to this year’s festival, especially with fashion, where women are often not credited or celebrated.
As Hamid explains: “In the fashion industry, it’s a male-dominated world, even though a large part of it—it’s designing for women. It’s nice to be able to design for women and men, and incorporate that Eastern flair, where they’re not afraid of color, texture and being loud. I love combining the downtown chic of vibrant New York with an Eastern flair.”