Tutankhamun center stage at Frankfurt’s ‘Festival of Egyptian Culture’

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A sensational discovery 89 years ago by archaeologist Howard Carter turned the unknown pharaoh Tutankhamun into an international superstar. For years, Tutankhamun, his treasures and his tomb have been touring the globe with an ambassador-like presence in each city he visits.

Starting on Nov. 19 and running through April 2012 in Frankfurt, Germany, Tutankhamun takes center stage in an inaugural exhibition titled, “A Festival of Egyptian Culture,” organized by Germany’s leading concert promoter, Semmel Concerts.

A replica of Tutankhamun’s tomb chambers, true to scale and detail of the originals, will make the moment of discovery an attainable, three-dimensional experience for visitors. The replica tour began in 2008 and has successfully attracted nearly 2.5 million visitors from all over Europe including, Zurich, Brussels and Seoul.

Exhibited in a 4,000 square meter custom built gallery space, Tutankhamun will serve as the headline act of the festival — and for the first time, a rich, diverse program of contemporary Egyptian literature, music, visual arts and stand-up comedy in Frankfurt will accompany him.

“We see our exhibitions, always a little bit, as an ambassador for Egyptian culture. This exhibition is formed from a very serious scientific foundation and that’s why it is important to organize an interesting and rich program combining lectures with book readings, music and so on,” said Project Manager Christoph Scholz.

“While other Tutankhamun exhibitions may include lectures or book readings, typically they speak about Ancient Egypt, the Pharaonic culture and treasures. We will show this of course, but also for the first time we are showing contemporary Egyptian culture — music, art, book readings, movies, theater performances, comedy.”

Scholz told Daily News Egypt that Egyptian exhibitions are the most successful all over the world in museum rankings. He gave an example of National Geographic’s series, saying their best selling books, magazines and DVDs are about Egypt. Same goes with The History Channel and The Discovery Channel —Egyptian mania never goes out of fashion.

“A Festival of Egyptian Culture” aims to utilize Tutankhamun as an attraction to promote cultural dialogue and understanding between Egypt and Germany. Tutankhamun will act as a springboard for contemporary Egyptian cultural awareness in Germany.

“It’s important now to speak about Egypt, to support its art world, to invite known artists or young artists to Germany to start a cultural dialogue,” Scholz said.

“Tutankhamun [as a subject of the exhibition] is the motor, it is the stage, it is the platform and it is the marketing machine who creates for the Frankfurt audience a general positive atmosphere around the topic of Egypt. I want to use this momentum in order to present young bands, unknown artists and even completely unknown comedians to Germany.”

The festival kicks off on Nov. 15 with the photography exhibition “To Egypt with Love” in the foyer of the main exhibition hall on Mainzer Landstrasse (free of charge).

“To Egypt with Love” received notable accolade upon its highly successful opening this past March in Cairo’s Safar Khan Gallery. The group exhibition features the work of young photographers Alaa Taher, Bassem Samir and Hossam Hassan. The three artists ventured out into the heart of the January 25 uprising, capturing their different perspectives of the transformational uprising.

The exhibition will run through Jan. 22, 2012 and will also feature the 2009 video, “A774 Project: On Presidents & Superheroes,” by renowned visual artist Khaled Hafez. Both works are showing outside of Egypt for the first time.

Safar Khan Gallery will also present an exhibition titled, “Egyptian Art Today,” starting March 7, 2012, exposing contemporary paintings, photography and video art curated for the festival in Frankfurt.

On the first anniversary of the dawn of the Egyptian January 25 revolution, an exhibition titled, “From Facebook to Nassbook,” will open to commemorate the occasion.

“Nass,” the Arabic word for “people,” showcases the work of nine artists and their interpretation of the internet outage on Jan. 28, when people shifted communication from online social media back to word-of-mouth tactics.

The exhibit first opened in the Mica Gallery in London, shown during the “Shubbak Festival of Contemporary Arab Culture” in London earlier this year. It aims to expose how social networks have played a pivotal role in organizing mass protests in Egypt and the Arab Spring.

The festival hosts a number of book readings by both established and young authors. Khaled Al-Khamissi will be reading episodes from his bestseller, “Taxi.” The book offers a keen insight into the mindset of Egyptian politics and society before the revolution.
Additional notable literary highlights include: Mansoura Ez-Eldin discussing her 2010 novel, “Behind Paradise,” on the opening night of the fest.

Ghada Abdel Aal will be reading excerpts from her blog, “Wanna Be a Bride,” which has been published into a hugely successful book and was recently adapted into a TV series.

Revered novelist Gamal Al-Ghitani will discuss his acclaimed book “Pyramid Texts,” an exploration of the relation between Sufi mysticism and medieval Islamic history with ancient Egypt.

Celebrating what would be Naguib Mahfouz’s 100th birthday on Dec. 11, renewed German theater actor Ulrich Pleitgen will be reading from Mahfouz’s “Cairo Modern,” a novel written in 1945 that, nonetheless, speaks directly to the current realities of Egyptian society. The book was recently published in German.

Concluding the literary program of the festival, the Cairo-based bookstore Al Kotob Khan will present emerging authors not yet published in Germany, including, writers such as Yasser Abdul Latif, Mohamed Rabie, Al Taher Shargawy and Mohamed Abdel Nablin.

On Dec. 14, the “Egyptian Film in Frankfurt’s Cinema” will kick off a film series with Marwan Hamed’s adaptation of Alaa Al-Aswany’s best-selling novel, “The Yacoubian Building.”

Running through late February 2012, a gamut of films will be screened, including classics such as Youssef Chahine’s “Alexandria… Why?,” the restored version of Shadi Abdel Salam’s “Al-Momia” (The Mummy), combined with Ahmad Abdalla’s indie smash “Microphone.”

Topping off the festival will be a series of live performances, including theater, stand-up comedy and live music. On Jan. 28, a play by Thomas Rau titled “A Night with Nefertiti” will relay the story of the world-famous bust of the ancient Egyptian queen, currently on display at the Neues Museum in Berlin and what happens when she comes to life afterhours.

On March 8 and 9, also in the exhibition foyer, “Comedy from Kairo” will introduce Frankfurt to Egypt’s contemporary comedic culture in a two-day stand-up comedy performance featuring Rami Boraie, Mo’ Love, High on Body Fat and other comedians.

Coming to Frankfurt’s Gallus Theater on April 4 is Dalia Basiouny’s highly insightful monodrama, “Solitaire.” The one-woman play follows a decade in the life of a character in her thirties named Mona, starting with the Sept. 11 attacks in New York City and ending with Egypt’s Jan. 25 uprising.

Starting March 30 in Frankfurt’s famous music club “Das Bett,” Egyptian top electronic music band “Bikya” will hit the stage with the musical expressions of Mahmoud Waly, Mahmoud Refat and Maurice Louca, combining a unique sound of classic techno, funk, trip-hop and folktronica.

The music program also features “Nass Makan,” bringing together some of the finest traditional musicians in Egypt and Sudan, introducing Frankfurt to the more folkloric, traditional sounds of Egypt.

Rounding up the music series is Alexandria-based rock band “Massar Egbari” with their entertaining mixture of rock, jazz, blues and a few oriental elements. The group was recently named an “artist for intercultural dialogue between Arab and Western worlds” by UNESCO.

Arguably one of the largest and richest programs of its kind, “A Festival of Egyptian Culture” is a welcomed platform for cross-cultural dialogue between Egypt and Germany.

The program not only aims to expand cultural awareness but it also helps to mobilize the exposure of contemporary Egyptian art and literature, furthering the needed development of culture during a time of major socio-political upheaval in Egypt.

“Although Egypt currently has economic problems and political sorrows, when I’ve come to Egypt [post Jan. 25] I feel an open atmosphere almost like Berlin after the fall of the [Berlin] Wall,” Scholz said. “Suddenly galleries came out of the earth like mushrooms everywhere; you had graffiti and new art, comics, books and bands.

“Through this festival, we want to promote Egypt and tourism while expressing that Egypt is still a wonderful country. I hope we can transport this message in our German publicity of the festival.”

For the full festival program, visit www.tut-ausstellung.com. Follow Daily News Egypt for extensive coverage.

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