About Moussem Cities: Damascus

In the annual MOUSSEM CITIES festival, Moussem Nomadic Arts Centre and its partners focus on a metropolis from the MENA region. Following a focus on Tunis, Beirut and Casablanca, the 2019 festival will be taking Damascus as its starting point.
It goes without saying that this requires a different approach and contextualisation. Damascus and Syria, a city and a country that have been at war for almost eight years, with a totally dislocated society and millions of people displaced. Damascus, a city with a social fabric that has been brutally torn apart and a shattered artistic scene. A city from which numerous artists have fled or have been forced to flee. A city with a hugely rich and culturally diverse history whose artistic dynamism until recently played a leading role in the region.
Moussem Cities will not attempt to normalise Damascus, but will look at the geographical place with its complex current events from a different angle. In this edition of the multidisciplinary festival, we will be looking even more explicitly from the artist’s perspective. With performances, concerts, exhibitions, lectures and discussions, we will be presenting work from a scattered artistic scene.

Right from the start, the development of this programme came about collaboratively and as a result of extensive dialogue with the artists and cultural actors who know Damascus inside out, those who have lived and worked there, and those who are part of this splintered artistic scene or who are still working there in difficult conditions with precious little room for manoeuvre. This has resulted in a unique collaboration with challenging and multi-layered projects. Moussem Cities Damascus has chosen to take the region as its starting point and is beginning in Beirut. The Lebanese capital, which is often the only haven for Syrian artists, but is also the place in which many Syrians are condemned to live, due to the impossibility of either travelling further or returning home. Moussem also wants to draw attention to those artists in the southern. Mediterranean region who work in difficult social and political conditions and who, because of the European Union’s political agenda and the tightening of the asylum policy in the countries of the region, are even more limited in their freedom of movement.
Moussem Cities has no political agenda and we do not seek to come up with answers. At the same time, we in no way ignore the immediate reality of the war, the history of the dictatorial regime, or the misery that is being caused in the region as a battleground for geopolitical interests. The same is true of the artists, who are determined and who in their work attempt to find a language for the many stories that they have experienced, and to reflect on the events in their city or country. Artists who are spread out across the world mostly out of sheer necessity, and whose work attests to an astonishing vitality and imaginative power. Our goal is to allow the pertinent voice of these artists to be heard.


A programme by Moussem Nomadic Arts Centre in close cooperation with Syrian cultural actors Sana Yazigi, Alma Salem, Kinan Azmeh et Jumana Al-Yasiri, with Ettijihat- Independent Culture, with our Brussels partners Lagrange Points, Bozar, Kaaitheater, Cinéma Nova, Creative District, Globe Aroma and with Omnes vzw.

Ettijahat- Independent Culture is a Syrian cultural organization founded in the end of 2011. Ettijahat seeks to activate the role of independent culture and arts, in the process of cultural, political, and social change. Ettijahat tries to achieve that by supporting artists and under- takers of cultural initiatives, ena- bling young researchers, working to build consensus and alliances between individuals and cultural institutions, promoting the arts and artists through regional and international platforms, and helping Syrian communities wherever they are have access to culture and arts.

Sana Yazigi is a graphic designer and founder and editor in chief of the project The Creative Memory of the Syrian Revolution. In 2013 she founded the initiative ALWAN Therapy (for Syrian refugees in Lebanon). She was the founder and editor in chief of the Syria’s first monthly cultural agenda The Cultural Diary.

Jumana Al-Yasiri is a Paris-based performing arts manager, curator, writer and researcher, that holds a BA in Theatre Studies, and an MA in Comparative Literature. She was involved arts and culture organizations and initiatives, such as Damascus Arab Capital of Culture 2008, the Young Arab Theatre Fund, Morgenland Festival Osnabrück, D-CAF festival in Cairo, and Med Culture Programme, Beirut and Beyond…

Alma Salem is an Internationally renowned independent curator and cultural advisor. She is the founder of The Freedom Museum & of the contemporary arts curatorial platform Syria Sixth Space.

Damascus born klarinet virtuoso Kinan Azmeh has appeared worldwide as a soloist, composer and improviser. A force on the international music scenes, he came to the attention of a larger audience as a member of YoYo Ma’s Silk Road Ensemble. His utterly distinctive sound across different musical genres is now fast gaining international recognition. Kinan is also a member of the General Assembly of Ettijahat.

Lagrange Points is a Brussels-based organisation with a mission to promote Arabic culture through literature, music and art. The long-term goal is to set up a permanent bookshop/
cultural hub with a wide selection of classic and contemporary secular Arabic literature, both in Arabic and in French, Dutch and English. Lagrange Points already organises literary and cultural events to introduce talented young people, to challenge our preconceptions about the Arabic world, and to find a common basis for discussion. Lagrange Points aims to link the various communities in Brussels and bring people closer together within an open and liberal

Omnes is an artistic and social NGO directed by Ali Nazir Ali that focus on exchange between EU and MENA.The goal of the organisation is building bridges between cultures. By bringing together citizens to build trust and improve mutual understanding. We promote knowledge, recognition and mutual respect between the religions and beliefs, cultures and values.with basic belief in fundamental freedom, human rights and freedom of expression by organising different types of artistic activities who contribute to realise this goal.

The Brussels Open Art House Globe Aroma is an artistic work and meeting place that offers space, time and support to newcomers. It is an easily accessible artistic sanctuary that focuses on dialogue, collaboration,
networking, creation and experience.

Cinéma Nova opened in the heart of Brussels in 1997 and is dedicated to independent cinema. Managed by a collective of volunteers, it has become the reference point for alternative, unconventional or simply different approaches in the audiovisual field. Nova is also a meeting place open to other disciplines.

Kaaitheater is a stage for dance, theatre, performance, music, and debate, rooted in Brussels but with our sights set on the world. Since 1977, we have presented and co-produced work by contemporary performing artists. From the eighties until the present, from local to international, from repertoire to experiment, and from small to large venues: Kaaitheater fosters long-term commitment to the artists on its stages. In the conviction that art is important to man’s well-being, we make a point of relating to society. In Brussels’ canal district, where we see all the world’s issues in a nutshell, artists imagine and model the city of the future.

BOZAR As Belgium's oldest and largest arts centre, the Centre for Fine Arts aims to be a model for the European cultural centre of the 21st century. An all-embracing umbrella project, BOZAR combines the operations of a dynamic concert and exhibition venue with a multidisciplinary supporting role. Starting from that core artistic mission, BOZAR aims to develop into a stimulating forum for sociocultural developments.


Moussem Nomadic Arts Center questions the prevailing artistic canon and reflects on the consequences of globalization caused by old and new migratory flows. Moussem’s international operations focus on artists that are either directly connected with the MENA - region, or evidence an openness toward it. Moussem directs its activities, which it consciously chooses to integrate within the mainstream art houses in Flanders, Brussels and Europe, towards a diverse urban audience. Moussem positions itself as an international crossroads in the Flemish art field. This is reflected in its many artistic collaborations.

Director: Mohamed Ikoubaân
Programmer performing arts: Cees Vossen
Artistic collaborator & artist in residence: Dareen Abbas
Press & communication: Patrick De Coster
Administration: Kelly De Cock
Production: Jeroen Deceuninck

info@moussem.be - +32(0)2 513.15.58 - www.moussem.be


Lagrange Points (meeting point)

Rue Ravenstein 36
1000 Brussels



Rue Ravenstein 23
1000 Brussels



81 Rue Notre Dame du Sommeil
1000 Brussels


Globe Aroma

Moutstraat 26
1000 Brussels


Cinema Nova

3 Rue Arenberg
1000 Brussels


Station Beirut

Secteur 66, rue 90
Jisr El Wati - Beirut, Lebanon