#HumansofShubbak is our mini interview series delving into the lives of the artists and organisers behind this year’s Shubbak Festival. The second interview of the series comes from Taekwondo champion and acrobat Najwa Aarras, member of Moroccan acrobatic collective Groupe Acrobatique de Tanger.
Najwa Aarras – member of Moroccan acrobatic collective Groupe Acrobatique de Tanger
“I grew up in a family who were incredibly passionate about martial arts. My father was a karate champion, and I used to accompany him to training sessions and championships. I was his number one fan and he was my hero. I cheered him on during every fight.
When I started taekwondo, I gave up everything to succeed. I travelled the world to compete, and since I was the only woman on my team, I had to work twice as hard to find my place. But taekwondo gave me confidence and made stronger.
For me, taekwondo is spectacular – it’s less about the fight and more about showmanship. I began to collaborate with a group of friends to create shows for the stage, combining taekwondo and acrobatics, both art forms complementing each other.
My proudest moment to date was joining Groupe Acrobatique de Tanger. I’d been following them since the beginning. I’d seen all of their shows and attended all of their events in Tangier. I was so inspired by their universe. I had vivid memories of acrobats practicing on the beach, and I learnt that generation after generation, hundreds of acrobats trained there – it was their school. Sadly, the beach has now been replaced by a marina and acrobats have to find different public spaces to train. But I think that’s one of the acrobats’ greatest strengths: they are flexible enough to adapt to any situation.
Where I come from, a women’s place is often so fragile. But in our show ‘Halka’, we are alive, we have strong personalities, we have needs and wants, and we are proud of it.”Najwa Aarras
See Groupe Acrobatique de Tanger at Shubbak 2019
Presented by Southbank Centre in partnership with CRYING OUT LOUD and Abu Dhabi Festival, with additional support from Arts – British Council. Supported Amal (a Saïd Foundation programme).