Meeting to address Arab-Latin culture ties

25 de junho de 2016

In October, the Holy Spirit University of Kaslik, Lebanon will host a colloquium on cultural interactions between Latin America and the Middle East. Registration for scholars and artists is open until July 30.

São Paulo – Lebanon’s Holy Spirit University of Kaslik (Usek) is hosting the 4th International Colloquium: Arts and culture in Latin America and the Middle East. The event is scheduled for October 27 and 28 at the Usek’s main campus, in Jounieh. Scholars and artists from both regions can apply to speak at the event by July 30.

According to Roberto Khatlab, the director of Usek’s Latin American Studies and Cultures Center (Cecal), art and culture get the least attention when it comes to interregional ties between Latin America and the Middle East. The professor imputes that to two factors: the dearth of financing to culture and art promotion actions involving the two regions, and the disinterest on both parts in enhancing knowledge of the other’s artistic manifestations.

“The cost of bringing a Latin American artist to the Middle East or the other way around is high. We do have several Latin American festivals here in Lebanon, but few artists from that region participate,” Khatlab points out.

“There is also a lack of interest in learning about broader aspects of the other region, in both the Middle East and Latin America. In the Middle East, whenever the subject of Latin America comes up, one thinks of Brazil’s samba or Argentina’s tango. In Latin America, any mention of the Middle East brings belly-dancing or the dabke to people’s minds. That’s not all there is to it, and to discover that is an interesting thing,” he stresses.

According to Khatlab, Usek is working on translating work by Brazilian artists of Arab descent from Portuguese into Arabic. He reveals that books by the likes of Milton Hatoum, Gabriel Chalita and Salim Miguel have already been translated. Conversely, he mentions the work of Safa Jubran, an Arabic Language and Literature professor at the University of São Paulo (USP), who is translating books from Arabic into Portuguese.

“The colloquium is intended to publicize that and to pique people’s interests. We focus on students because in the future, they will be the ones who’ll spread and expand upon that culture,” the professor claims. To Khatlab, cultural manifestations from one region in the other are still few and far between. According to him, it is very hard to find a sponsor for films that straddle both regions.

Khatlab says that after the opening of the Brazil-Lebanon Cultural Center, an organization affiliated with the embassy of Brazil in Beirut, the number of cultural actions involving Brazil in the Arab country has increased. Still, he claims, more relevant groups from Latin America could be brought to Lebanon to perform.

“We are not bringing any important groups from Latin America to play shows here. The samba shows here, for instance, feature only one Brazilian; most players are Lebanese people who’ve learned [the rhythm in Lebanon],” he says. Two of the few famous Brazilian musicians who have performed in Lebanon were Gilberto Gil and Caetano Veloso, Khatlab recalls.

Colloquium’s organization

The colloquium will have five speakers from Latin America and five from the Middle East. Experts from both regions can send their articles to be presented in the event. Besides teachers, also allowed to participate are artists, filmmakers and painters that have Arab-influenced works, if they are Latin Americans, or Latin American-influenced if they are from the Middle East.  

To participate, the article submitted needs to fit in one of the three categories: Cultural Flows and Mobility between the Middle East and Latin America; Art, Memory and Immigration; and The Role of Culture in South-South International Cooperation. To know the rules for the article, those interested need to send an email to

The university will take care of the lodging, meals and transportation costs of the speakers and will also offer a touristic tour. Each speaker will pay for its air tickets.

Besides Cecal, also taking part in the event’s organization are Usek’s Faculty of Philosophy and Humanities (FPSH); the Latin American Council of Social Sciences (CLACSO), from Argentina; the Edward Said Chair of Contemporary Studies of São Paulo Federal University (Unifesp); the Brazil-Lebanon Culture Institute (ICBL); and the Institute for Arab Culture (Icarabe). According to Khatlab, Hoda Nehme, FPSH’s dean is carrying out an important work to spread the culture of Latin America among Usek’s Lebanese student body.

One of the names already confirmed is Italian Alberto Sismondini, professor of the University of Coimbra, Portugal, who wrote a paper on Arab-influenced Brazilian literature. After the definition of all the names set to speak in the event, the programming will be released in August.  

Because it’s an event focused on culture, the colloquium will also have dance and music presentations, films and theatre plays. The movie selection will be made by Geraldo Campos, member of Icarabe and curator of the Arab World Film Festival.  

Artists from Latin America and the Middle East that are carrying out works that are influenced by the other region can also send these works to be presented at the event. They also need to be sent to Those selected will present their work, displaying their art to those attending the event. The colloquium is open to the general public.

*Translated by Sérgio Kakitani