It was founded by anthropologist and filmmaker Fadwa El Guindi in 1992 along with co-founders Mardi Rustam, publisher, and the late Richard Haboush, producer. The nonprofit organization is designed to serve as a cultural center for preserving and disseminating information on the contemporary, and historical artistic, literary and other cultural Arab achievements, and to organize the existing artistic talent within the Arab American community in order to enrich the cultural heritage of the Los Angeles public community.
It is a forum devoted exclusively to creating, presenting, and promoting the visual, literary, and performance arts by Arab-American artists. Today it has its own traditional Arabic music. Ensemble, AI-Takht AI-Arabi, and a theater company, Masrah.
AI-Funun AI-Arabiva represents and has inspired
an awakening of interest and energy in the Arab immigrant community, one
that has not been seen on these shores since the days of Khalil Gibran
(The Prophet) and the literary movement of Arab immigrants he founded in
I 920 as Ar-Rabitah (Pen Society).
AI-Funun has already left its mark in the cultural landscape of the city, with major venues including the Los Angeles Poetry Festival, Los Angeles Arts Recovery Program 'Bismillah,' a month long Arab Arts festival and the Artists Cafe Series with the Cultural Affairs Department, the Los Angeles International Film Festival for Women Directors, and the 1993 Los Angeles Festival (with film, poetry and theater -- Ghurbal --programs), Midnight Special Bookstore, and many university campuses.
The theater production, 'Qala al-Rawy, about Arab bedouin women's storytelling and poetry, launched the first truly all Arab-American theater. A special performance of Qala al-Rawy was presented at the African-American Marketplace. Recently AI-Funun created an innovative program of Arabic music, theater, and traditional performances as part of the Cultural Affairs Department's Children's Faire and participated with al-Takht al-Arabi in Watts' Tower Day of the Drum Festival. Its recent play Mahjar was proof that Arab-Americans can now have a professional bilingual theater in America. The play was very successful, marked by repeat attendance by Arab-Americans who saw in it their identity, goals, problems and immigrant life. Attendance was multicultural -- all ethnic groups attended it
. Subsequently al-Funun sponsored a
traditional Arabic music concert in the context of the annual convention
of Arab-American University Graduates. The concert was by Jihad Aly Racy
and his ensemble. The auditorium was overflowing with standing room only.
An evening to remember.
AI-Funun is proud to be a competitive and repeat recipient of prestigious art funding grants from the City of Los Angeles Cultural Affairs Department; LA Arts Recovery Fund (J. Paul Getty Trust Fund, the National Endowment for the Arts Council, AT&T, California Community Foundation, L.A. Art Association, & the Times Mirror Company); and the Brody Arts Fund of the California Community Foundation.
Al-Funun takes pride and credit in providing the original stimulus and creative beginnings in 1992 that energized the contemporary Arab arts and changed attitudes by the Arab-American public which considered art activities simply entertainment for profit or a 'backdrop' to other political and fundraising activities. The focus was on cultural activity not art. Al-Funun insisted on events completely devoted to art activities without any other side agendas.
Since 1992 the influence of Al-Funun was beginning to show. A number of other groups devoted to Arabic music, to poetry, visual and literary arts have formed around the country and more recently a magazine was launched to cover cultural news and stories. There is still no Theater Ensemble other than that of Al-Funun. So at this time Al-Funun is rethinking its goals and structuring in light of the change of attitude since 1992 and increase in art activity among Arab-Americans.
Al-Funun plans to resume
its art activities after the restructuring and reconceptualization is completed.
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