Award-winning student news since 1978

The Brookhaven Courier

Award-winning student news since 1978

The Brookhaven Courier

Award-winning student news since 1978

The Brookhaven Courier

Kufiya Comedy to hold first multicultural festival

Linley Nyirenda
KeLanna Spiller is a Dallas comedian known for her dynamic storytelling and keen obervational humor. She will be one of six comedians from Desi, Middle East and North Africa, East Asia and Dallas featured May 10 as part of Kufiya Comedy Festival.

Kufiya Comedy, a comedy club founded by Palestinian comedian and henna artist Marena Riyad, will be hosting its first Kufiya Comedy Festival at 4321 Lemmon Ave, Dallas, TX 75219, with different activities held all day May 10-12. 

According to Riyad, Kufiya Comedy was founded with the purpose of creating a space for underrepresented communities in comedy, specifically the Asian and Arab communities. Though Riyad has had the idea of a multicultural festival for years, she, with the help of her Chief Operating Officer Alex Hanson, finally decided it was time to make her vision a reality with World Kufiya Day being May 11 and the one year anniversary of the first Kufiya Comedy show being June 2-3.

“I went to festivals like South by Southwest, and that’s when I was exposed to the power of art, filmmaking and music and what that can really do for not only the artists, but also the different people that are watching it,” Riyad said. “That’s the whole thing with Kufiya Comedy, giving an Arab hospitality twist to comedy, and bringing out people that you typically wouldn’t find in comedy clubs because they wouldn’t feel welcome. That kind of thing is really what inspired the comedy festival – to cater and do it as a gift to the communities that have supported us thus far.”

Each day of the multicultural festival will be themed around a different diaspora. Day one spotlights Desi, which is Pakistani, Indian and Bengali culture. Day two will be the Middle Eastern and North African region, while day three will cover East/Southeast Asian cultures.

“For the sake of comedy, and to make comedians’ jobs a little bit easier, diversity is important,” Riyad said. “Technically I’m Asian and my cofounder Alex is half Thai. We’re just essentially highlighting the cultures in Asia and how diverse they are. I feel like there’s enough festivals that highlight all European cultures, so why not?” 

Each region will be highlighted through comedy, traditional music and dances, art and short films. The festival will vary in showing traditional cultural films such as “Eid Mubarak” by Mahnoor Euceph and “Made in Palestine” by Mariam Dwedar. Contemporary, new age performers, such as comedians and nontraditional musicians from varying cultures, will also be featured, including Folk Story – a rock ’n’ roll meets Bollywood band based in Dallas. 

“Somebody asked me to go to this party and I was like, ‘Sure,’” Riyad said. “They were performing, I got their contact and now they’re closing out the afterparty show at our Desi night. They’re incredible, I cannot wait for people to experience them.”

According to Hanson, they hope for the Kufiya Comedy festival to be more than just a festival in the long run, as it is also a nonprofit. Hanson is a producer and actor, so he and Riyad would like to implement a layer of filmmaking after the festival.

“We want to facilitate theatrical productions and films,” Hanson said. “And maybe one day we will be able to award money.”

Riyad said a main reason she wanted to put on this festival is to give people a new appreciation and understanding of these various showcased cultures. Her goal is for attendees to receive a new community feel, gain a heartfelt perspective from listening to people across the globe and absorb the heart and the essence of those different cultures.

“Every single tidbit has been so carefully planned for your enjoyment,” Riyad said. “It’s about the quality of the experience, and it’s been created for you. Those experiences individually are amazing, as a whole you get the full spectrum of what a culture is, what it can be and where it’s headed.”

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