Culture Through Soft Power

calendar-iconWednesday, 20 March, 2024
9:00 pm -

Speakers: Erfan Tousi, Lalia Binbrek, Namal Siddiqui, Shamma Al Bastaki
Chair: Sultan Sooud Al-Qassemi
Language: Multilingual

Prepare for an enriching exploration of the profound influence of culture through soft power initiatives. Be captivated by the ethereal melodies of Erfan Tousi’s hand pan performance, each note transporting you to distant realms. Delve into the timeless verses of Khalil Gibran and Nizar Qabbani, gracefully interpreted by the eloquent recitations of Namal Siddiqui. Guiding our discourse is esteemed chairperson Sultan Al Qassemi, alongside distinguished panellists Laila Binbrek and Shamma Al Bastaki, as they offer profound insights into the role of culture in shaping our global landscape. Don’t miss this illuminating event where art, poetry, and dialogue converge to celebrate the rich tapestry of human expression and connection.

Erfan Tousi, a handpan musician originally from Iran, discovered his passion for the instrument with just three months of formal training before moving to Dubai, where he honed his craft through dedicated self-practice sessions lasting over 4.5 hours. Performing primarily at ceremonies, sound healing sessions, and yoga studios, Erfan witnessed firsthand the profound emotional and healing effects his music had on listeners. Inspired by these experiences, he began composing meditative patterns and soothing melodies specifically designed to alleviate stress and anxiety, drawing from the handpan’s natural frequency of 432Hz to induce a state of relaxation and harmony. With a deep understanding of music’s therapeutic potential, Erfan aims to help listeners attain alpha brain waves, promoting inner peace and tranquility through his heartfelt performances and compositions.

Laila Binbrek is the Director of the National Pavilion UAE, which presents the United Arab Emirates’ annual exhibition at the Venice Biennale. She has worked to set the pavilion’s ongoing strategy and vision in collaboration with its commissioner, the Salama bint Hamdan Al Nahyan Foundation, and manages its operations and team. Additionally, she oversees the development of the Venice Internship, a training program that to date has sent around 200 interns to Venice as ambassadors for the UAE and its rich culture. In 2021 the Pavilion was awarded the Golden Lion for best National Participation at La Biennale Architettura.

Born and raised in the UAE with roots in Pakistan, Namal Siddiqui has written poetry since childhood. After working in the advertising and tech industry for over a decade, she took a long sabbatical to further her skills in writing and mountaineering. She found her way to the Emirates Literature Foundation where she manages year-long cultural events and is currently working on a poetry book for publication. Her writings delve on the subjects of identity, migration and nature.

Shamma Al Bastaki is an Emirati writer and poet. She is a Harvard graduate with a degree in Regional Studies – Middle East. She has served as an ambassador for the Louvre Abu Dhabi since 2015 and was commissioned by the museum on several projects, including a poetry installation in collaboration with Jenny Holzer studios. Shamma is the 2019 winner of the ADMAF Creativity Award for her ethnopoetry collection House to House, an excerpt of which was published in the Asymptote Journal of global contemporary literature and taught in universities in Japan, the US, and the UAE. Member of 6th cohort of Salama Bint Hamdan Emerging Artists Fellowship, co-curator of Hekayah: The Story. She is co-founder of JARA Collective, recipient of NYU President’s Service Award. Shamma is elected Cultural Chair of Harvard Arab Student Association.

Sultan Sooud Al-Qassemi is an Emirati columnist and researcher on social, political and cultural affairs in the Arab Gulf States. He is also the founder of the Barjeel Art Foundation, an independent initiative established in 2010 to contribute to the intellectual development of the art scene in the Arab region. He has taught ‘Politics of Modern Middle Eastern Art’ at New York University, Yale University, Georgetown University, Boston College, The American University of Paris, Brandeis University, Harvard Kennedy School, Columbia University and most recently at Bard College Berlin. Sultan also recently completed a Fellowship at Wissenschaftskolleg zu Berlin. Sultan is currently a Research Associate at SOAS Middle East Institute, London.