Arabesques 2016 © Arabesques

"arabesques" festival celebrates culture beyond borders

Fifth edition with more than 40 events in five weeks tries to overcome barriers by culture. 2016 focuses on "Big Ports - Home & Exile"

This year’s “arabesques” programme revives the festival’s ambitious claim to “culture sans frontières” and invites the audience to enjoy five weeks of borderless, cultural exchange in the Hamburg metropolitan region.

More than 40 events spanning music, literature, drama, film, arts and debates will be held under the motto of “The Big Port – Home and Exile”. Special emphasis is placed on the themes of identity, borders and alienation and how civic courage and an ability to criticize can foster responsible interaction among people.

La Voie de la Beauté – a commissioned composition

The fifth edition of the “arabesques” festival has been awarded a first, commissioned composition. The premiere of the work “La Voie de la Beauté” by French composer Thierry Pécou will launch the festival on January 22, 2016, at the migration museum BallinStadt. Georges Delnon, director of the Hamburg State Opera, will officially open the events as patron. Those interested in the pre-opening of “arabesques” are invited to meet Kent Nagano, conductor of the Hamburg State Opera, on January 16, 2016, when he discusses Claude Debussy with the audience.

Home – attempting a definition

The festival programme also shows visitors the many ways of interpreting the theme of “home”. A classic chamber concert called “Home Port Hamburg” by the French-German Ensemble “arabesques” will be held on February 9, 2016. Singer Marie-Laure Timmich will on February 12, 2016, describe how exile becomes the new homeland based on the path of Jewish composer Kurt Weill, who fled Berlin via Paris to the United States. On February 9, 2016, the questions, “Where do you come from?” and, “Where are you going?”, will take priority in a poetry slam with the Senegal-born beatbox champion Beasty, the French slammer Maras, and the Hamburg word acrobat Schriftstehler. The photographers, Nathalie L. Brochard and Hervé Dieu, will showcase pictures of French-German couples and ask, “Where is home and what is it?”, on Janaury 26, 2016. And an international graffiti and street art exhibition will take a look “over and beyond the wall” on February 1, 2016.

Debate about Europe with Hamburg’s first mayor

Crossing borders is also the topic of a debate called, “Where Is Europe?”, at the Bucerius Law School. Olaf Scholz, First Mayor and President of the Senate of the Free and Hanseatic City of Hamburg, and Pierre-Yves Le Borgn, deputy of the National Assembly for French expatriates, will discuss the challenges and prospects of French-German relations as an engine of European integration on February 10, 2016. The award-winning, Hamburg historian and comedian Sebastian Schnoy will take a more humorous look at the refugee crisis, international understanding and nationalism during his “Man aboard – Europe first” cabaret at the Indochine restaurant on February 11, 2016.

French day at Stilwerk

French lifestyle awaits visitors at the French Design Weeks in Stilwerk. French Day on February 6, 2016, will be the highlight with French design classics, culinary delights and French chansons. The entire programme of Breton poetry, a cinematic journey to Tunis, jazz and the “Magic Flute” for children and plenty more can be found on

Huge backing for festival

Hamburg’s Mayor Olaf Scholz is the patron of “arabesques” and will officially open the festival on January 22, 2016, the Day of French-German Friendship. “arabesques” is supported and funded by the Hamburg Ministry of Culture, Claudine Lepage, sénatrice des français établis hors de la France, the French Consulate General, Hamburg’s French cultural institute “Institut Français”, Alfred Toepfer Foundation, Carl-Toepfer Foundation, Citroën, Spairliners and Euler Hermes Germany. The German-French cultural festival co-operates with the following associations: ABBAN e.V., Hambourg Accueil e.V., Mon Hambourg, Amicale de Hambourg, Cluny e.V., and French Connection Hamburg.

Source and further details:

Tickets can be bought at Konzertkasse Gerdes. Tel: 040-45 33 26 or 040-44 02 98 and at all the usual ticket agencies, unless otherwise indicated in the programme booklet.

Hamburg's French Heritage

Did you know that Hamburg was part of France around 200 years ago? In those days, the border between Denmark and France ran right through the heart of today’s city. In 1806, Napoleon occupied the Hanseatic city. Five years later, in 1811, the French emperor made Hamburg the capital of the four departments of Bouches d’Elbe including Lübeck. Although the French period lasted only until May 30, 1814, it left deep traces and shaped not only infrastructure and architecture, but also the language and the local cuisine – you can only enjoy famous, delicious “Franzbrötchen in Hamburg. Under French rule, the old caste system gave way to the Civil Code that declared all men equal. The separation of church and state ended the dominance of the Lutherans, and an old boardwalk like the one to Harburg yielded to cobbled streets. Despite all the hardship under French occupation, this phase saw the administration and urban structures in Hamburg transformed and its influence was felt for a long time.

About arabesques

The French-German cultural festival “arabesques” was launched in 2012 by Barbara Barberon-Zimmermann and Nicolas Thiébaud. “arabesques” always begins on January 22, the German-French Friendship Day. The French term “arabesque” means “in the Arab fashion”. The term was coined in the early nineteenth century after Napoleon’s famous expedition to Egypt, which contributed to orientalism in Europe and the United States. The term has found its way into European culture and refers to various art forms. The organisers of the same-named festival wish to show adults, children and adolescents how different cultures attract, influence and enrich each other to find new forms of expression. This is illustrated in concerts, readings, exhibitions, theatre performances, dance shows, film screenings and debates. Another objective is encourage interest in the French and German languages, and to strengthen French-German co-operation as a catalyst of the peace process in Europe. From this perspective of French-German friendship, “arabesques” looks beyond borders to tackle international issues. “arabesques” supports the international children’s charity, Terre des Hommes, to ensure that the festival has a lasting affect.

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