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Festival Speakers, Panelists & Performers

Over two days artists, academics, writers, thinkers, philosophers and communities will come together through conversation and performance on the past, present and future of Islamic art and culture.

The festival will present Islamic art and culture in the most positive and engaging way possible. Over 50 contributors to the festival, leading in the fields of art, design, archaeology, literature, education and heritage, will discuss and present their perspectives on Islamic art and culture.

Meet our panelists & speakers:

Taher Adel

Taher Adel is a British-Bahraini poet and spoken word artist. He has an MA in Creative Writing and Poetry from the University of East Anglia. He was poet in residence for Wells-next-the-sea in 2019. His poetry has also been published in Ambit, SMOKE Magazine, The New European, Gulf Daily News, Glassworks Magazine, Tedx, Poetry London Magazine and Poetry Salzburg Review. His forthcoming collection “The Names” is due to be translated into Arabic and published by Rewayat.


Saks Afridi

Saks Afridi is a Pakistan born, New York City based multi-disciplinary artist. He makes futuristic art inspired by ancient South Asian and Middle Eastern culture. He does this through a genre he terms as ‘Sci-fi Sufism’, where he fuses mysticism and futurism to discover worlds and galaxies within the self. Saks comes to art with a background as a Creative Director in advertising. He studied advertising at the Academy of Art and sculpture at the Art Students League of New York. He speaks English, Urdu, Pashto and conversational Arabic. He is the proud recipient of Gold Cannes Lion Awards and a United Nations Award for Peace & Understanding.


Sadiya Ahmed

Sadiya Ahmed is a Freelance Heritage Consultant. She established Everyday Muslim Heritage and Archive Initiative in 2013 in response to the lack of representation of the Muslim narrative in archives, museums, and education in Britain.

There are three archive collections consisting of; oral history interviews, personal documents, photographs, and ephemera. As well as a considerable resource of educational material, videos, and podcasts available on the Everyday Muslim website.

Currently, she is developing a digital history map of Muslim history in Britain. Alongside her experience in planning and managing heritage projects and fundraising, she has also negotiated collaborations and partnerships with museums, archives, academics, universities, artists, media, and community groups across Britain to amplify those histories absent or suppressed in the broader British history discourse.


Mobeen Akhtar

London based artist Mobeen Akhtar graduated with a BSc in Medical Biology but returned to her lifelong dream of pursuing a creative career in 2014. Mobeen creates work that reflects her deep admiration for detailed Persian miniatures and Islimi; and being inspired by the intricately illuminated pages of miniatures and manuscripts, she aims to practice the traditional methods so they may be recognised and enjoyed today, as they were in the past. She hopes to instigate a wider appreciation for the traditional arts and encourage people to question and admire the techniques used to accomplish them. Her work seeks to explore the journey we take whilst in search of our own individual spiritual path and it also seeks to celebrate the spectacles of nature and how they are a constant reminder of The Creator.

Mobeens' work has been shown in exhibitions in the past and was last shown at the prestigious Southampton City Art Gallery in 2021. Through her work, Mobeen is reminded of the perfection in God’s creations and the continuity which extends from Him alone. This profoundly inspires every piece of work that she begins with the humble pencil and ends with the stroke of a brush.


Dr Esra Alhamal

Dr Esra Alhamal is a multi-hyphenate creative, educator, podcaster on Art Illuminated and the co-founder of Bristle and Brush, artist grade watercolours. Dr Alhamal completed a PhD in the University of East London in 2022 and her thesis is dedicated to Islamic biomorphic/nabati patterns, which is the same specialty that she teaches in-person and online on Dr Alhamal's artwork has been exhibited in the UK, Saudi, Bahrain and Oman. Her work is a mixture of traditional methods and a contemporary experimental approach.


Mohamad Ali

Mohamad Ali is the Founder, Director and Curator of the Al-Khatt Al-Jameel Private Collection of Qur’an Manuscripts based in Sydney, Australia. He has been collecting and studying Qur’an manuscripts for 21 years. He has worked closely as a Consultant to various art/history museums and organisations across three continents. Additionally, he is a Senior English Literature Teacher and Head Teacher of Welfare, Learning and Support with the NSW Department of Education.


Fadhila Al Dhahouri

Fadhila Al Dhahouri is passionate about Islamic Art, heritage and culture. She started practicing Islamic Geometric Art in 2019 in the process of healing from depression and anxiety and uses it to connect with the oneness of Allah. She has established Al Dhahouri Arts to share the beauty, magic and power of Islamic Art.

Now, Fadhila is focused on organising, uniting and empowering the Islamic Art space. As a result, she has co-founded the Global Centre of Islamic Art to make the transformation she gained through Islamic art accessible to the widest number of people possible.


Ahmed Alrefaie

Ahmed Alrefaie (OwaikeO) is an illustrator and graphic designer from Kuwait. Throughout his career, Ahmed’s fascination with the past grew year after year and has become focused on the Middle Eastern cultures and traditions brought in a vibrant and modern style. His work has grown from a personal hobby to a business where he collaborates closely with clients from local and international businesses in creating illustrations for brands.

احمد الرفاعي )اويكيو( رسام ومصمم جرافيك من الكويت. اثناء مسيرته الفنية اعجب احمد با لم اضي و جعلة مصدر إلهام لكل اعمالة فيبرز ثقافات و تقاليد ا لمنطقة العربية باسلوب حديث. نما احمد فنه من هواية شخصية إلى عمل تجاري حيث يتعاون مع العملاء من الشركات ا لمحلية والعا لمية في إنشاء

.الرسومات وبناء الع لامات التجارية


Majid Alyousef

Majid Alyousef is a master calligraphy artist and creative designer whose work has been on display worldwide, including in New York City's Times Square and Geneva’s United Nations “Room of the Emirates.” Art lovers and brands have commissioned his unique style, placing his work on everything from canvases to luxury watches.

Majid developed a distinctive, contemporary visual style, transforming Arabic characters into a purely abstract form. His method merges the classical beauty of traditional calligraphy with the Avant-Garde spirit and futurist/cubist philosophy.


Hatem Arafa

Hatem Arafa is a calligraphy artist and graphic designer, born in Alexandria, Egypt, 1988, and graduated from the traditional Islamic arts faculty in Istanbul, Turkey. He teaches Arabic calligraphy and Islamic ornamenting, and has participated in many exhibitions and projects worldwide Like in: Egypt, Turkey, Jordan, England, Iran, Paris & USA. Hatem Arafa is known for his contemporary style of illustrating the concept of the design content through the formation of its external appearance. Most recently, he used his signature style to create the latest logo of the new version of the iconic video game: Assassin's Creed, and some interior artworks in the game itself. He also just returned from a trip to North Carolina / USA where he completed designing the whole calligraphy artworks inside the new Cary Mosque, including writing inside the dome of the mosque.


Rajen Astho

Rajen Astho completed his MA degree in music composition in St. Petersburg, Russia in 2010. Around the same time he discovered his second big passion, the art of Islamic geometric pattern, which blossomed over the next few years. He now shares his passion through his artworks, research and teaching.


Samira Atash

Samira Atash is an artist, entrepreneur, designer, content creator and certified in Islamic Art and Architecture from Oxford University.

She is also founder of Rumi Rose a design company inspired by the dress, beauty rituals, heritage, culture, art and history of the Silk Road. Products are ethical, sustainable and support a woman's entrepreneurship program in Afghanistan.

IG: @samiraatash

TikTok: @samira_atash Instagram: @rumi_rose


Kristine Rose-Beers

Kristine Rose-Beers ACR is Head of Conservation at the Chester Beatty in Dublin, Ireland, and an accredited member of the Institute of Conservation. She graduated from the Conservation programme at Camberwell College of Arts in 2002. Kristine’s research interests include the conservation of Islamic manuscript material, early binding structures, and the use of pigments and dyes in medieval manuscripts. She has taught and lectured internationally, and is a regular tutor at the Montefiascone Project in Italy.


Nasima Begum

Nasima Begum (aka Nasima Bee on stage) is a performance poet, producer and creative practitioner. She’s a trustee for Manchester’s Young Identity, ( a collective of poets, dancers and musicians. Nasima uses art as a means of activism and her work is an exploration of loss, a celebration of femininity and an observance of the world.

Nasima’s most notable performances include Manchester Literature Festival, British Council’s BritLitBerlin conference and BBC’s Contains Strong Language. Nasima’s most recent residency was Belgium’s Museum Nacht, where she spent 24 hours with 14 artists making performance work. She has taught poetry with young people nationally and internationally through various projects. Nasima was 1 of 5 Greater Manchester recipients of the Jerwood Creative Fellowship with Manchester International Festival 2019 in which she observed ANU Productions ‘The Anvil’ and was also commissioned to write and record poetry for an installation piece as part of this. Most recently she worked on an audio commission with New Creatives North entitled ‘Salt’. This work is funded by BBC Arts and Arts Council England. Nasima has also released her first solo R & D in short film form titled ‘fatihah’, a poetic exploration of loss and losing as part of HOME’s Push Festival 2022. Nasima is currently researching and developing her first script exploring what it means to be a British Muslim woman in the currently political climate.


Yahya Birt

Yahya Birt is a community historian who has taught at the University of Leeds, has published over a dozen peer-reviewed articles on Islam in Britain and co-edited British Secularism and Religion (2016), Islam in Victorian Liverpool (2021) and most recently, The Collected Poems of Abdullah Quilliam (2021).

He is a series editor for the Oxford British Muslim Studies series published by the Oxford University Press. In 2022, he published his first poetry collection, Pandemic Pilgrimage, reflecting on performing Umrah under Covid. He is Research Director at the London-based think-tank, the Ayaan Institute, where he works on Muslim minorities. His first report was released in 2022 called Ummah at the Margins: The Past, Present, and Future of Muslim Minorities. He lives in West Yorkshire with his family and cat. He likes walking and being grumpy about the state of the world. He can be reached on Twitter @ybirt.


Eric Broug

Eric Broug is an author/educator/ artist, specialising in Islamic geometric design. He has written several popular books on the subject and his work is available in English, Farsi, Turkish, French, Korean and Dutch. During the pandemic, he wrote a new book on Islamic architecture, which will be published in April 2023 by Thames & Hudson.


Dr. Eléonore Cellard

Dr. Eléonore Cellard is a French specialist in early Qurʾānic manuscripts. She started her research activities in 2008, under the supervision of Prof. François Déroche. In 2015, she submitted her dissertation entitled “The written transmission of the Qurʾān. Study of a corpus of manuscripts from the 2nd H./8th century CE” (INALCO/EPHE). She collaborated to several international projects about Qurʾānic manuscripts. In 2020-21, she carried out a research project on one of the Qurʾān copies attributed to the caliph ʿUthmān ibn ʿAffān. Since 2022, she is conducting her research independently. She has also authored several monographs and articles on Qurʾānic manuscripts.


Ramey Dawoud

Ramey Dawoud is a Sudanese-American Nubian language activist, actor, and author. Born in Alexandria, Egypt, he immigrated to the United States in 1999 and settled in Kansas City. With the traditional Nubian and Sudanese songs that he listened to growing up and the new textures of music he discovered living in the U.S., he began writing his own songs during his adolescence that reflected his wide range of musical influences. His first solo music project, “Diary Of A Menace”, was a mixtape he digitally released independently in 2008. His work with the group The Ambassadors garnered him a Best New Artist award at the 2012 Kansas City Entertainment Awards. That same year, Ramey made his film acting debut by starring as Faisal in the short film “Faisal Goes West”, which won a number of international awards and was featured as the Opening Night Film at the inaugural Sudan Independent Film Festival. Ramey Dawoud released the album "Kashta" in 2017 followed by his EP "I Am Because We Are'' in 2018. In 2022 Ramey Dawoud retired from music to focus more on book writing. In 2021 he published his first book, Nabra's Nubian Numbers, a children's book that teaches counting in Nubian while highlighting different aspects of Nubian culture.


Moustafa Fahour OAM

Moustafa Fahour OAM is an Executive – Middle East for Plenary Group and the Founder of the Islamic Museum of Australia. He was formerly the CEO and Managing Director of one of the leading diversified international contractors in the Middle East, based in Dubai for over 7 years.

He has over 22 years of experience in the banking industry, construction, management and has held senior roles with CIMIC Group, Macquarie Bank, National Australia Bank, UBS and Citigroup.

Moustafa is the author of Boundless Plains: The Australian Muslim Connection and The Journey: Establishing Australia’s First Islamic Museum. He is the Executive Producer of the Boundless Plains: The Australian Muslim Connection documentary.

He was recognised with the Medal of the Order of Australia (OAM) by the Australian Government in 2015, Highly Commended by the Victorian State Government for community response and recovery in 2021, was selected as one of The World’s Most Influential Young Arabs under the age of 40, by Arabian Business and the distinguished Alumni Award by La Trobe University in 2016.


Peter Gould

Peter Gould leads a strategic design consulting firm based in Sydney, Dubai, Jakarta & Beirut. ‍Over the past 20 years his engagements have included Apple, Google, United Nations, Greenpeace and a diverse portfolio of projects from senior government projects to Web3 startups. His unique heart-centered design approach has resulted in international acclaim, including a major award from the UAE Vice-President. In 2020, Peter was appointed as a UNHCR Ambassador in recognition of his efforts supporting refugees.


Alistair Hudson

Alistair Hudson has been appointed the next Artistic-Scientific Chairman of the Zentrum für Kunst und Medien (ZKM) Karlsruhe, Germany. Alistair will take up the role on 1 April 2023, taking over from Professor Peter Weibel, who has headed ZKM since 1999.

Alistair Hudson was appointed Director of the Whitworth and Manchester Art Gallery in February 2018 and will leave that post in January 2023. Prior to his move to Manchester Alistair was Director of Middlesbrough Institute of Modern Art where his vision was based on the concept of the Useful Museum. In the preceding ten years he was Deputy Director of Grizedale Arts which gained critical acclaim for its radical approaches to working with artists and communities, based on the idea that art should be useful and not just an object of contemplation.

Alistair is co-director of the Asociación de Arte Útil with Tania Bruguera – an expansive international project and online archive that forms part of the Uses of Art programmes with the L’internationale confederation.


Sophie Ibbotson

Sophie Ibbotson is a World Bank consultant, government advisor, and writer specialising in Central and South Asia. She is the Chairman of the Royal Society for Asian Affairs (, Director of the Silk Road Literary Festival, and Uzbekistan’s Ambassador for Tourism.


Tez Ilyas

Tez Ilyas is one of the most celebrated stars in British comedy. He achieved phenomenal success with his debut stand up hour TEZ Talks. A sell out run at the Soho Theatre and his own Radio 4 series based on the show followed, with a second series quickly being recommissioned. In 2016 his highly anticipated follow up show Made in Britain went on to sell out every single performance (including extra shows) at the Edinburgh Fringe and gained spectacular critical acclaim, with a smash hit nationwide tour in 2017. His third show Teztify once again delivered a spectacularly powerful, provocative and brilliantly funny hour of topical stand up, delivering to packed out audiences night after night. In 2021 Tez released his hotly anticipated debut novel The Secret Diary of a British Muslim Aged 13 3/4, a teenage memoir to widespread critical acclaim, which made The Sunday Times Best Seller list this year. Tez has appeared on Live at The Apollo (BBC Two), The Last Leg (C4), Mock the Week (BBC Two), Live From the BBC (BBC Two), The Chris Ramsey Show (Comedy Central), Man Like Mobeen (BBC Three), Live from the Comedy Store (Comedy Central), Kevin Hart’s Live from Montreal (LOL Network), Virtually Famous (E4), The Now Show (BBC Radio 4), Roast Battle (Comedy Central), The Rob Rinder Verdict (C4) and The Great British Bake Off: An Extra Slice (C4), Celebrity Supply Teacher (CBBC).

His Channel 4 comedy Blap Bounty is the most watched show in the strand’s 10 year history. In 2019 he fronted his own Channel 4 satirical sketch series The Tez O’Clock Show to huge critical acclaim.


Aliyah R. Khan

Aliyah R. Khan is Director of the Global Islamic Studies Center (GISC), and Associate Professor in the Department of English Language and Literature, and the Department of Afroamerican and African Studies, at the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor. She holds a creative writing M.F.A. from Hunter College of the City University of New York, and a Ph.D. from the University of California, Santa Cruz. Far from Mecca: Globalizing the Muslim Caribbean, her nonfiction scholarly book on Islam in the Caribbean, focusing on the literature and culture of enslaved African Muslims and indentured South Asian Indian Muslims in the Americas, was published by Rutgers University Press and the University of the West Indies Press in 2020.

Dr. Khan’s academic articles and creative writing essays appear in publications including GLQ, the Caribbean Review of Gender Studies, Caribbean Quarterly, the Journal of West Indian Literature, Pree: Caribbean Writing, and Guernica. Her interviews on Caribbean and U.S. Islam and Muslim films, art, literature, and music have appeared on and in National Public Radio, the Washington Post, Religion News, American Muslim Today, The Polis Project, the Black Agenda Report, Sapelo Square, and Chicago’s Radio Islam, among other venues.


Nur Sobers-Khan

Nur Sobers-Khan's research focuses on the transition from manuscript to print in South Asia and the creation of new genres and forms of reading through the circulation of lithographed texts on cosmology, dream interpretation and other divinatory literatures. From 2021-22, she was the director of the Aga Khan Documentation Center, a research center and archive of Islamic visual culture and urbanism at MIT. From 2015-2021, she was the Lead Curator for South Asia Collections at the British Library, London, where she was responsible for curating the South Asian printed book and manuscript collections and was Principal Investigator of the AHRC-funded project Two Centuries of Indian Print (2016-2021). She has taught at the University of Cambridge, St Mary's University College, and Habib University, where she designed the undergraduate courses, “Dream Interpretation: A Decolonial History” and “Islamic Art and Visual Culture: From the Middle East to South Asia.”


Ausma Zehanat Khan

Ausma Zehanat Khan holds a Ph.D. in international human rights law with a specialization in military intervention and war crimes in the Balkans. She is the author of the award-winning Esa Khattak and Rachel Getty mystery series, which begins with The Unquiet Dead, as well as the author of the critically acclaimed Khorasan Archives fantasy series. Her new crime series featuring Detective Inaya Rahman debuts with Blackwater Falls this November. Khan is also a contributor to the anthologies Private Investigations, Sword Stone Table, and The Perfect Crime, and the former Editor-in-Chief of Muslim Girl magazine. A British-born Canadian and former adjunct law professor, Khan now lives in Colorado with her husband.


Dr. Sara Ann Knutson

Dr. Sara Ann Knutson is a historian and anthropological archaeologist working on the premodern world and an Assistant Professor of Teaching at UBC. Sara Ann's work explores the connections between the Islamic World and Northern Eurasia including in the context of the “Silk Road.” Her current teaching and research projects examine the enduring influence of the ‘Abbāsid Caliphate in present-day Islamic cultural heritage, including through the many meanings attached to Islamic coins. Her previous research examined questions of religious change in Islam, ancient trade and exchange, materiality, and diasporas. She received her PhD in Anthropology from the University of California, Berkeley.


Sandy Kurt Bio

Sandy Kurt is an artist, self-taught designer, and educator. She began her journey in 2016 and soon specialised in miniature geometry, principally using watercolour as a medium. Her miniature complex geometry and sense of colour captured the attention of social media and soon she was inspiring thousands of artists to get started with this traditional art form.

Never expecting to be just an artist, within 2 years, she started collaborating with brands around the world bringing her unique style to life through product design.

Today, the acclaimed artist and designer brings her positive attitude about art and her personable style to workshops, online courses and Instagram, where she has a growing fan base of 27K+. She believes that everyone can find peace in Islamic geometry and in art in general. To make this possible she has co-founded the Global Centre of Islamic Art, an organization that makes transformation through Islamic art accessible to everyone.


Joumana Medlej

Joumana Medlej is an artist from Lebanon whose connection with early Arabic calligraphy was awakened by years spent working with master calligrapher Samir Sayegh in his Beirut studio.

She specialises in the Kufi scripts, roughly corresponding to the Abbasid era, and in the materials of the time, having abandoned store-bought paints for the old ways of natural colour-making. She studies both scripts and art technology directly from primary sources, and is now drawing on her practitioner’s experience to translate medieval Arabic manuals and bring the voices of past masters to a general audience.

Joumana works out of her Hackney studio and has pieces in private and public collections from California to the Middle East. She teaches Kufi calligraphy at the Arab British Centre and book arts-related courses at the PFSTA.


Yassmin Abdel-Magied

Yassmin Abdel-Magied is a Sudanese-born writer and broadcaster. A recovering engineer, Yassmin writes for the page, stage and screen. She has published four books with Penguin Random House, including the essay collection Talking About a Revolution and the award winning Listen Layla. The Layla novels have been optioned for screen by Goalpost Productions, with Yassmin as lead writer. Yassmin’s fifth book, Stand Up and Speak Out Against Racism, is due to be released in Autumn 2023.

In 2020, Yassmin co-wrote the sold-out immersive theatre production in London’s Kensington Palace, United Queendom. She was selected for the Soho Theatre Writers Lab to develop BLACK GILD and spent 2021 as the Australia Council Keesing Studio Resident in Paris. In 2022, Yassmin was selected for the the Spring GRACIA residency in Guatemala, the Fall Residency program at the Virginia Centre for the Creative Arts, and the Winter Artists Residency at Rupert, Lithuania. She is currently developing her second play, NO ESCAPE, as part of the Tamasha Playwrights Collective.

An award-winning speaker, Yassmin has delivered keynotes and workshops in 25 countries. She founded her first organisation, Youth Without Borders, at the age of 16, leading it for nine years before co-founding two other organisations focused on serving women of colour. Her TED talk, What does my headscarf mean to you, has been viewed over 2.6 million times and was selected as one of TED’s annual top 10 ideas. She is currently a Trustee of the London Library and Committee Chair with the Black Writers Guild.


Samira Mian