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Art&Culture: A year in review

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The Art&Culture scene went through a few difficult phases in 2013 but managed to survive and even flourish. Music, contemporary dance, photography, festivals and exhibitions, regardless, despite or because of the restrictions the political climate and reality imposed, artists everywhere used their talent to chronicle the times we lived in.

While society was divided along stricter lines in the past year, artists in Egypt found inspiration in the differences and the diversity in their work made for a year filled with art that moved, surprised and made us think. Here are some of our highlights of 2013.

Dalia Farid Fadel and Hany Mustafa during their performance  (Photo by Emily Crane)

Dalia Farid Fadel and Hany Mustafa during their performance
(Photo by Emily Crane)

AUC showcases its musical range in stunning double feature

Emily Crane reviewed an evening of laughter, sadness and great music

The night opened with The Telephone, a one-act comedic opera telling the story of a man who is attempting to propose to his sweetheart but is continuously interrupted by her ringing telephone. Nesma Mahgoub’s stellar soprano blew the audience away and her excellent comic timing kept them laughing throughout the performance.

Things took a much more somber tone when the curtains reopened for the second act of the night. AUC’s Music Department delivered a breathtaking rendition of Les Miserables’ 17 most powerful songs, translated for the first time into colloquial Egyptian Arabic by Sarah Enany.

Neither production would have been possible without the solid piano accompaniment of Rosalie Capps who played for over two hours, carrying the vocalists through to a standing ovation.

 

 

The association also suffered looting of computers and equipment (Photo Courtesy of the Jesuits and Brothers Association)

The association also suffered looting of computers and equipment
(Photo Courtesy of the Jesuits and Brothers Association)

Sectarian attack on Minya Theatre

Hannah Wilkinson spoke to the organisations that operated and used the theatre

On 14 August, the headquarters of the Jesuits and Brothers Association was attacked by unknown assailants in a sectarian assault. “At 10:30am they began to attack our centre from one side and threw stones and molotov cocktails at our door,” said Magdi Asham, an information sector director for the organisation which operates the headquarters.

“I have never been so frightened in all my life. I was frightened to death” said Biman, a Jesuit priest who preferred not to give his full name and was present during the attack. He confirmed Asham’s account of what happened. “They were in front of me, they had sticks, they had stones… they didn’t attack me, I call it a miracle, a blessing.”

Accustomed to growing tensions between Christians and Muslims in the region, Asham and Biman are nonetheless shocked by the destruction of a community resource which Asham claims served everyone in the area irrespective of religion.

 

 

The simple wooden chair in front of a kiosk in Zamalek is part of the 1001 Street Chairs of Cairo project  (Photo from 1001 Street Chairs of Cairo Facebook page)

The simple wooden chair in front of a kiosk in Zamalek is part of the 1001 Street Chairs of Cairo project
(Photo from 1001 Street Chairs of Cairo Facebook page)

Seats on the streets

Hend Kortam spoke to the artist who is collecting images of the ubiquitous chairs in Cairo

Chairs are everywhere on the streets of Cairo. We all pass by at least one every day, and most of us march right past them without even noticing the car seat that has been converted into a street chair and placed on the sidewalk.

The chairs tend to get lost in the middle of all the spontaneity, improvisation and confusion on our streets. A project called 1001 Street Chairs of Cairo “aims to create a photographic archive” of Cairo’s street chairs. The picture of the chair is pinned on a map of the capital, showing a small icon of a chair on the location in which the picture was taken.

Manar Moursi, a co-founder of the project, said the chairs reflect more than just the design and cost factors, creativity and recycling: “People do not throw them away, they fix them.” She added that the chairs also reflect public space issues, gender issues (because only men sit in them) and even unemployment issues.

 

 

Sad Panda's collaborative street art with The Mozza in Heliopolis (Photo from Sad Panda Facebook page)

Sad Panda’s collaborative street art with The Mozza in Heliopolis
(Photo from Sad Panda Facebook page)

The melancholy of Sad Panda

Fatma Ibrahim and Thoraia Abou Bakr spoke to man behind Sad Panda

Graffiti and street art have always played an integral part in social demonstrations. With the recent rise in demonstrations, many protesters carry spray cans in order to paint slogans, and express their dissent and demands on any surface they can find.  Sad Panda is a character that has become iconic in Egyptian street art.

The common themes of street art include the end of a regime, a women’s revolution, as well as the need for the people’s voices to be heard. Sad Panda, however, seems to be the best character to express the sense of loss and mourning for those who lost their lives during previous demonstrations, and for those who gave up and stopped fighting.

Sadness dominates Sad Panda’s life, and it is expressed in drawn features of the character; its figure is slumped, its face grimacing, and its demeanour implies the misery of it all.  “I ruin walls, I am too sad to do anything for fun,” the artist added.

 

 

Actor Khaled Abol Naga interacts with one of the audience members during the play White Rabbit, Red Rabbit (Photo by Thoraia Abou Bakr)

Actor Khaled Abol Naga interacts with one of the audience members during the play White Rabbit, Red Rabbit
(Photo by Thoraia Abou Bakr)

White rabbits and their inevitable redness

Thoraia Abou Bakr attended D-CAF’s  interactive play

One goes to a play to be told a story that is usually exaggerated for dramatic effect. Usually, the story contains more than one actor. Usually, there is a start, a peak and an end. Usually, the accepted audience participation is clapping or booing, in case of a bad performance. Usually, the actors know the lines before opening night. Usually, there is a director.

Iranian writer Nassim Soleimanpour decided to go another way. Instead of a rehearsed play, Soleimanpour wrote the script White Rabbit, Red Rabbit, sealed it in a closed envelope and gave instructions on how to use the envelope. The instructions were that one actor opens the envelope on stage, and he/she is provided with two glasses and a small bottle of an unknown substance. There are no rehearsals, no direction, nothing. It all depends on the actor and the audience.

 

Ghaly Mohamed at work in his workshop (Photo by Abdel-Rahman Sherief)

Ghaly Mohamed at work in his workshop
(Photo by Abdel-Rahman Sherief)

The silver merchants of Khan El-Khalili

Abdel-Rahman Sherief visited the silversmiths of Cairo

Precious, fashionable and within the scope of most people’s budgets, silver ornaments are popular as gifts for a variety of occasions.

The raw silver used by local craftsmen is either Egyptian local silver, or Swiss silver, which is higher quality. Egyptian traders and artisans prefer to deal with the local silver however, as it is inexpensive.

Ghaly Mohamed, who has been a silver craftsman for 40 years, does a lot of work based on his customers’ requests, preferring innovative work to imitating ready-made designs or copying from a catalogue. He said silver workshops in Khan El-Khalili, known as El-Khoronfesh, used to be teeming with real creative and artistic craftsmen, unlike these days. “The problem lies in poor education; schools should first teach children commitment and discipline,” Ramadan said. “The core of education is to learn how to think and to become used to receiving instruction, but that is missing today.”


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