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A Thousand Times No: Masterclass on Arabic Revolutionary Graffiti

Tuesday 13 December 2016
Matthias de Vrieshof
Matthias de Vrieshof 2
2311 BZ Leiden
Vrieshof 2 - 6a

In collaboration with the Prince Claus Fund for Culture and Development, LUCIS is proud to present a masterclass on Arabic Revolutionary Graffiti by Bahia Shehab, entitled: "A Thousand Times No". Bahia Shebab is one of this years' laureates of the prestigious Prince Claus Award

In this masterclass, Bahia Shehab will discuss her ongoing work as an artist, curator, scholar and activist. Her historical explorations of Arabic calligraphy serve as a source of inspiration for her visual works, whether exhibited in galleries or on the walls of revolutionary Cairo. 

Preceding Bahia Shehab’s masterclass, Judith Naeff will give a seminar on creative insurgency and visual counter-conduct in the Arab world. During this seminar, students are trained to engage with Shehab’s work from a critical theoretical perspective and encouraged to articulate questions for the guest speaker.

Deadline for application for this masterclass: Friday 9 December. Please find the details below.

About Bahia Shehab

Bahia Shehab (1977, Beirut) is a graphic designer, historian, teacher, artist and activist who brings a deep knowledge of Arabic visual culture to all these fields. Her major ongoing project is compiling historical examples of Arabic calligraphy for an encyclopaedia of the Arabic script. The richness of the encyclopaedia of calligraphy aims to empower designers, reconnect them with their heritage and inspire innovation. During the Arab Spring Shehab’s archaeology of visual language was transformed into practical activism. Highlighting the role of the visual in the protests, Shehab spray-painted and stenciled the word ‘no’ on the streets of Cairo in conjunction with political statements such as ‘no to violence’ and ‘no to military rule’.

Shehab also designs and curates exhibitions and community-based creative projects in Cairo. As Associate Professor in the Department of the Arts at the American University in Cairo (AUC), she developed and launched AUC’s graphic design programme featuring specialised courses on Arab civilisation, particularly calligraphy – a first in the Arab world.

She has been nominated for the Prince Claus Award for transforming her unique study of Arabic calligraphy into material for social and political activism, contemporary artworks and commercial use; for expanding knowledge of historical Arab visual culture and demonstrating it is a rich source for today’s avant-garde designers; for teaching, mentoring and being a transnational female role model for younger generations; for bridging divides between history and modernity, academia and the commercial world, the streets and the galleries, east and west, art and revolution. Pleasef ind the complete report from the 2016 Prince Claus Awards Committee here.

Watch Bahia Shebab's TED talk.

About Judith Naeff

Judith Naeff is lecturer Cultures of the Middle East at Leiden University and lecturer Visual Culture at the Radboud University Nijmegen. Her research interests are cities, visual culture, literature and leftism in the Arab world.

Reading list


PhD students, graduate students and advanced undergraduate students from Leiden University are invited to register for this masterclass. Applicants should send a document consisting of a short bio of appr. 250 words, detailing your education and (if applicable) publications and research activities, as well as a short motivational letter of appr. 350 words describing why you wish to attend this masterclass. Please send your application to lucis@hum.leidenuniv.nl. The deadline is Friday 9 December.

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