The Chilean culture week opened yesterday at the Spanish Cervantes Institute. The opening consisted of an exhibition by two Chilean artists, Raquel Onetto and Janeth Figueroa, and was attended by notable figures including the Spanish and Chilean ambassadors, as well as diplomats from Spain, Latin America and Portugal. Other guests included Spanish Egyptians as well as Spanish language students at the Cervantes Institute.
The institute told us that it hosts different culture weeks for different countries throughout Latin America throughout the year and that this was an annual event. “These two artists have traveled throughout Latin America and this work on display is all handmade but this is the first time they come to this part of the world”, the spokeswoman explained. The artists are known for their social work in the Chilean port city of Iquique where they focus on women and development.
The works were all representative of the artists’ native Chile in one way or another, often reflecting both the nature and people of Chile. In addition to the artworks exhibited in Cairo, the Bibliotheca Alexandrina has also received 13 works, in a notable ceremony, that will be permanently on display there.
The works of Janeth Figueroa dominated the centre of the room, strung from the ceiling and taking up most of the walls. Across the room a documentary film on Chile was projected during the festival opening. At one point, the artist came up to me and asked me, with a smile, “¿Te gusta?” “Do you like it?” This could have been the start of a no-doubt intelligent and pseudo-intellectual conversation on Chilean art, had it not been for my basic Spanish.
Following the opening of the exhibition, two workshops by the artists were organised, with the 2005 Chilean film Mi Mejor Enemigo (My Best Enemy) ending this first day of the culture week. During the week the artists will give workshops every day, twice a day for all those who are interested.
The attendees were all pleasant and appeared to be having a good time but one thing that this visitor should have been wary of was the dress code. Since most of the guests were diplomats and ambassadors, it was not unusual to feel slightly underdressed wearing anything but a suit. (It also would not have hurt to have some pins signifying profound diplomatic importance).
The institute will be screening Chilean films Subterra and El Regalo during the rest of the week as well as hosting a meeting with the consul of the Chilean embassy. The film screenings are free, as is participation in the workshops, and all activities will take place at the Cervantes Institute in Dokki.