Libya's Benghazi hosts rare 'week of culture' art event

Libya's Benghazi hosts rare 'week of culture' art, music, theatre event
2 min read
Activities during the week include workshops on glass painting, photography and sculpture, according to organiser Hazem El-Ferjani.
Benghazi was the first city to rise up against Gaddafi in 2011 [NurPhoto/Getty]

Libya's eastern city of Benghazi is hosting a rare "week of culture" featuring art, music and theatre, as the country attempts to turn the page on a decade of violence.

"It's an honour to have an exhibition for the first time in Benghazi," said Elham El-Ferjani, an artist who travelled from the capital Tripoli in the country's west specially for the event.

Benghazi was the first city to rise up against long-time dictator Muammar Gaddafi in 2011 in a NATO-backed revolt.

The situation deteriorated into a complex war involving Libyan armed groups, foreign mercenaries and foreign powers, and an ensuing political crisis saw the oil-rich country split in recent years between rival authorities in the east and west.

An October truce set in motion a UN-sponsored process that led to the creation of an interim government tasked with preparing the country for elections this December and unifying its institutions.

Nevertheless, Libyan warlord General Khalifa Haftar remains the dominant power in the nation's east.

In late April, his forces stopped an advance security team from the government landing at an airport in Benghazi, the same city now hosting this cultural event, meaning Prime Minister Abdul Rahman Dbeibah was forced to cancel his trip to there.

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El-Ferjani, whose work is inspired by Libyan desert rock art, Amazigh (Berber) culture and the North African country's decade of conflict, is displaying her paintings at the Barah cultural centre in the heart of Libya's ancient second city.

The opportunity to meet with artists who have travelled from all over the country was "a source of joy", said El-Ferjani, whose show kicked off the week's events.

Khalifa Haftar: Warlord or leader?
Click here to enlarge image (January 2020)

Other activities include workshops on glass painting, photography and sculpture, as well as roundtables and conferences, said organiser Hazem El-Ferjani, who is not related to the artist.

The aim of the cultural week, which runs until Saturday, was "to revive the artistic and cultural life of Benghazi", a city long associated with violence, he said.

The programme also features debates on Libyan cinema, a concert of Arab-Andalusian music and a play performed by a Libyan theatre troop.