Ahlan Wa Sahlan (Welcome): Hospitality in Arabic culture

Ahlan Wa Sahlan (Welcome), Graphic Design by Ahmed Elkhalidi – Yadura Design Studio

ALCASA is hosting a temporary exhibition at the History Trust of South Australia Migration Museum:

Ahlan Wa Sahlan أهلاً وسهلاً (Welcome): Hospitality in Arabic culture

Arabic cultures from all over the world are well-renowned for being masters in generosity when it comes to hospitality. ‘Ahlan wa sahlan’ is a common phrase that will greet all family, friends and strangers and literally translates as ‘welcome, you have arrived!’  

This exhibition delves into the meaning of Arabic hospitality through personal objects and creates a tapestry of stories full of nostalgia, love and pride. The Arabic Language and Culture Association of South Australia (ALCASA) partnered with the History Trust of South Australia to gather these stories from the Arabic speaking communities in South Australia to showcase diversity and enhance belonging. Ahlan Wa Sahlan informs, entertains and educates about the rich history and traditional cultures associated with Arabic hospitality. 

Community consultation and planning for the exhibition has been supported by a MCCSA community connections grant.  

Since 2012, the Arabic Language and Culture Association (ALCASA) has been showcasing aspects of the South Australian Arabic language and culture to enhance belonging and promote intercultural understanding.  

The exhibition will be on show at the History Trust of South Australia Migration Museum from 4 February 2023 to July 2023 (Official Launch held on 11 February).

Almost ready for the 2023 exhibition on Hospitality in Arabic Culture

On 16 October 2022, we held the 2022 ALCASA Annual General Meeting event preceded by a dabke performance and workshop. More than 60 enthusiastic participants came to celebrate the Arabic folk dance and to contribute to AGM discussion. Dabke, a folcloric line dance was presented by the emerging Turath Arts group who brought such vigour to the stage with joyous music and “Zaghrouta”! The exuberant energy was contagious as everyone joined to dance together – kids, teenagers, elders, Arabic- and non Arabic-speaking community members.
At the afternoon tea, we mingled over a variety of Arabic sweets and drinks, including homemade date cakes, dates and walnuts, Jallab with pine nuts… brought by our beloved community members – Arabic hospitality at its finest!

Thanks to the ALCASA Chairperson and the ALCASA Treasurer, we reviewed the events and activities that happened in the last financial year. We also gained insight into where we are financially, which is important to plan ALCASA’s next exciting community events and activities.
Approaching the final stage of the 2023 exhibition on Hospitality in Arabic Culture, Dr. Birgit Heilmann, Curator of the History Trust of South Australia Migration Museum, led an interactive discussion among community members to finalise the next steps. Everyone’s unique contribution is cherished in bringing this exhibition alive. Within half an hour, we saw how diverse and passionate voices come together to build the meaning of Arabic hospitality.

By Ann Miao Ng and Soyoo Park, Master of Social Work, University of South Australia: Justice & Society

Event supported by UniSA: Justice & Society and the Multicultural Communities Council of South Australia (MCCSA) through the Community Connections Program.

A Weekend Reconnecting Communities: Lebanese Movies in Adelaide, September 2022

It has been two years since the Lebanese Film Festival was here in Adelaide. We were thrilled to finally showcase Lebanese art and culture to South Australian communities that we have been preparing from back in July 2022. In partnership with the Lebanese Film Festival, we supported the screening of three movies, Memory Box, C-Section, and Costa Brava, Lebanon, at HOYTS Norwood across the weekend. In particular, ALCASA held the screening of Costa Brava, Lebanon on Sunday, 25 September 2022, as part of a fundraising for ALCASA’s future activities and events for children.

Due to the pandemic, we missed having face-to-face events and gatherings in the last two years. This event allowed us to reconnect with people we have not seen from events before COVID, while making new connections who came to celebrate Arabic-speaking culture with an open mind. Despite the rainy and drizzly weather outside, the connections we’ve had made the afternoon warm and cozy. The relaxing ambience and comfortable seating in the cinema allowed us to lay back and wind down after a hectic week, with soul-soothing Lebanese snacks like Maamoul, Baklava, and gluten-free Ghraybeh.

The realistic portrayal of Lebanon in the films evoked a swirl of emotions: nostalgia, longing, and homesickness among the audience, reminding the Lebanese community members of their beloved home country. The three movies provided critical insight into the reality of Lebanese society, each tackling different social issues such as the aftermath of the civil war, social inequality, and garbage crisis. It was a great opportunity to educate and raise awareness of the wider South Australian public about the severity of issues faced in Lebanon, and a crucial time to bring these topics to the table.

Fayrouz Four smiling people in front of the ALCASA banner

Fayrouz Ajaka, ALCASA Chairperson with project’s key-partner team members from UniSA: Justice & Society

As international students in South Australia, watching Costa Brava, Lebanon is eye-opening as a compelling domestic drama and an exquisite political allegory. Starring the two magnificent actors Saleh Bakri and Nadine Labaki, Mounia Akl tells a metaphorical story of individual people and their hopes, fears and desires, on the search for happiness in a tortured country among its existential struggle. By portraying the family dynamics and structure of the Badri family, it reflects the fissures in Lebanese society. It sheds light on the chronic garbage crisis and waste management in Lebanon that continues to haunt the country, who produces more than 2 million tons of trash per year with 94% buried in landfills and around 6% recycled.

However, Lebanon is not the only country that is suffering from environmental injustice and political corruption. Around the world, millions of vulnerable people are bearing the disproportionate and unequal burdens inflicted by self-serving elites. It is more than an environmental issue, but a political and social justice struggle.

You may ask, then, what can we do in the face of climate injustice? It is a wicked problem, and the biggest threat to the very survival of modern humanity. As individuals, it is more than normal to feel helpless and discouraged as we are all up to our necks in this. However, as shown in the movie, the individual action of Walid in the form of passive resistance has called upon collective action of the wider community to address the very trash and political corruption that is happening next to their house. These issues are to be tackled at the macro level by the community, and it all starts with one individual. Both individually and collectively, in the form of adaptation and mitigation strategies, we are building our capacity to respond to these issues. We, as the audience, are part of a bigger community, and there is a hope for us to be part of the systemic change.

Costa Brava, Lebanon is still around us. As social work students, we uphold the values of human rights and social justice, and this affects humanity as a whole. By nature, social issues are complicated in that we all play a part in contributing to them. Now more than ever, the result impacts all of us, especially the most disadvantaged and oppressed population. We believe in the power of community in resolving social issues, by promoting awareness, having hope and undertaking collective action underpinned by individuals.

To quote Greta Thunberg, “Hope is not passive. Hope is telling the truth. Hope is taking action. And hope always comes from the people.”

By Ann Miao Ng and Soyoo Park, Master of Social Work, University of South Australia: Justice & Society 

Movie screeningt supported by the Multicultural Communities Council of South Australia (MCCSA) through the Community Connections Program.



Lebanese Film Festival in Adelaide, 23-25 September

After two tumultuous years, the 2022 Lebanese Film Festival finally made its return to Adelaide with three thought-provoking films encapsulating the marvels of Arabic language and culture, as well as the bitter-sweet reality that Lebanese people endure.

The three-day festival held at Hoyts Cinema, Norwood, kicked off with the unravelling Memory Box whereby Maia, a single mother and daughter, Alex, delve into Beirut’s hidden treasures during the Lebanese Civil War, after receiving an unexpected delivery containing tapes, photos, and notebooks. Despite the fascination with the historic relics, Alex unlocks a world which blurs the lines between fantasy and reality, leaving the audience at the edge of their seats.

In the night that followed, the dramatic comedy film C-Section, entertained a few giggles from the audience as they witnessed two pregnant couples from opposing social classes battling it out in a shared private room at a hospital. Let’s just say the European styled comedy encapsulated the inequalities of Lebanon in a satirical, yet amusing fashion.

On the final day, the comedic tone shifted to a serious one, with the screening of Costa Brava, an award-winning film starring Nadine Labaki and Saleh Bakri, which was part of the project “ALCASA Community Connections 2022” and supported by the Multicultural Communities Council of SA (MCCSA). The Badri family’s idyllic existence in the mountain side comes to halt as a shady corporation governed by political motives decides to build a landfill to dump garbage on their doorstep. Torn between anguish, fear, and bravery, the Badri family not only endure the harsh external realities that stem from corruption in Lebanon, but also are confronted with an internal crisis as they are forced to face the life they left behind. In the film’s conclusion, a mix of emotions were felt by the audience—a moment of silence, followed by sympathies for the Lebanese people, and finally admiration for their ongoing endurance despite hardship.

Thank you once again to the ALCASA team, the Lebanese Film Festival, MCCSA, UniSA: Justice & Society and finally, the delightful audience!

by Tania Zebian

Objects Tell Our Stories: ALCASA Community Workshop on 28 August 2022

On the 28th of August, we successfully held ‘Objects Tell Our Stories’ workshop at Campbelltown Arthouse, as part of our planning process for the upcoming exhibition at the History Trust of SA Migration Museum in 2023.

As warm as the sunshine we got to enjoy, the warmth of Arabic hospitality welcomed all 24 participants who were enthusiastic about bringing our ambitious project together. The participants represented many parts of the world: Australia, Lebanon, Iraq, Palestine, Egypt, Yemen, Syria, Sudan, Germany, China, South Korea and Malaysia. All brought with them their curiosity and unique perspectives on the ‘hospitality’ aspect of Arabic culture.

The workshop was facilitated by Fayrouz Ajaka, Chairperson of ALCASA, and Dr Birgit Heilmann, curator at the History Trust of SA Migration Museum. Following the two presentations about making cinnamon tea by Sahar from Sahar’s Cooking School and Yemeni coffee by Dalal, people shared their fascinating and intimate stories accompanied by the traditional Arabic objects which held sentimental values. An Arabic afternoon tea was also served to provide a holistic experience of Arabic hospitality.

The ideas and passion from the participants inspired and concretised the development of the exhibition, bringing our vision to life. This will continue in our next workshop in near future for shaping the successful exhibition next year.

Below is the reflection from Tania Zebian, an ALCASA member who participated in the session:

The session not only began with a figurative discussion around what Arabic Hospitality ‘looks, feels, smells and tastes like’, but also ended with guests literally tapping into their senses by tasting different traditional drinks—cinnamon teas and an assortment of Arab coffees— and sweets, including Ma`mul, Baklawa and Kaa`k
This was the first discussion of many that sparked ideas for the exhibition, and we are looking forward to bringing it alive by exploring why these objects of Arabic hospitality are important to us to identify commonalities and differences in our experiences.

Event in partnership with the History Trust of SA Migration Museum
Project supported by the Multicultural Communities Council of South Australia (MCCSA) through the Community Connections Program.

By Ann Miao Ng and Soyoo Park, Master of Social Work, University of South Australia: Justice & Society 

“Objects tell our stories” in World Arabic Language Day in SA 2021

We are very excited while getting ready to celebrate the World Arabic Language Day in South Australia for the first time on Saturday 11/12/2021, at the Migration Museum, 4:30 to 7:30pm. The event has been sold out and a waiting list is now open.  We are considering very carefully the current health situation and, finger crossed, all will be ok to hold the event as planned.

With help from the Migration Museum staff, we will be holding a One Day Pop-up exhibition to share stories about migration experiences and cultural identities through personal objects. ALCASA and the Migration Museum extended the invitation to participate in the exhibition to all  members to the South Australian Arabic speaking community groups and we received a relatively good response considering the extent and the duration of the event. A workshop took place on 10/10/2021 to explore what may be added to the exhibition. Valued members of SA Arabic speaking communities joined the ALCASA members in an interactive session where we shared stories and items from the homeland. It was a fun session that helped us to enhance social connections and to reflect on migration, belonging and identity. We look forward to set up and enjoy the exhibition during the World Arabic Language Day in SA 2021.