Arab festival opens at Kennedy Center in Washington, DC

Source: Associated Press

Lebanese dancers, a Shakespeare production from Kuwait portraying Saddam Hussein as “Richard III” and incredible wedding dresses from the Arab world are showcased in an unprecedented arts festival opening at the Kennedy Center.

The $10 million, three-week festival, “Arabesque: Arts of the Arab World,” began Monday. It will feature 800 artists from 22 different countries including Iraq, Lebanon, Egypt, Somalia and Sudan. Organizers say that makes it the largest presentation of Arab arts ever in the United States.

The hundreds of visual and performing artists, hailing from well-established theaters and more isolated places, “are excited that America is going to take their cultural work seriously,” said Michael Kaiser, president of the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts. The goal, he said, is “to get to understand Arabs as people, as opposed to Arabs as political entities.”

A 120-member children’s choir from Syria struck Kaiser during some of his travels as the perfect fit for a U.S. audience, which may hold negative political images about Syria.

“When you see beautiful little children singing,” he said, “it’s very hard to think of those children as being evil.”

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