Egyptian donkey sculptures travel to Malta's Mdina Cathedral Contemporary Art Biennale

Ahram Online , Monday 23 Nov 2015

This year the Biennale is themed 'Christianity, Spirituality and the Other'

Donkey by Mohamed Abla during Caravan exhibition in Cairo in 2013. (Photo: Sara Elkamel)

A large number of Egyptian artists are participating in Malta's Mdina Cathedral Contemporary Art Biennale, an event that runs between 13 November 2015 and 7 January 2016.

The artists will participate with the group project titled CARAVAN, that takes donkeys as it's main subject. As such, most of the works present life-sized and smaller versions of the animal's sculptures while some artists display their paintings with donkeys as their main subject.

The idea of the exhibition goes back to the Caravan Festival of the Arts that took place in 2013 in Egypt that included donkey sculptures that served as caravans to tell stories, raise issues and deliver messages.

The donkeys are painted, others are decorated with different materials pointing to the different understandings of peace, interfaith and intercultural dialogue, while underscoring the juxtapositions between harmony and disparity.

In their display in Malta, artists also look into the religious harmony and rapidly expanding conflicts between east and west where migrant and refugee issues play a significant role.

Among the Egyptian artists displaying their work in Malta are: Karim Abdel Malak, Hend Adnan, Farid Fadel, Khaled Hafez, Mohamed Talaat, Ibrahim El Dessouky, Reda Abdel Rahman, Miriam Hathout.

The caravan works are on display in Cathedral Museum (15 donkeys), Palazzo de Piro (3 donkeys) and the National Museum of Natural History/ Vilhena Palace in Mdina, Malta.

Described on it's website as a spiritual space celebrating creativity, this year Mdina Cathedral Contemporary Art Biennale is themed Christianity, Spirituality and the Other with 'The Other' standing for faith and non-faith, belief and non-belief, theist and atheist, agnostic and polytheist. The event has gathered a large group of artists from across the world, presenting their works in different art media such as sculpture, ceramics, painting, photography, prints, installation and performance.

The Mdina Cathedral Contemporary Art Biennale was launched in 1994 with an event themed Contemporary Sacred Art in Malta of 1994. This year, the Biennale's statement clarifies that the event aims at "unashamedly declaring all art to be spiritual, in the sense that creative depiction, actions and events, through their intrinsic character, reflect the individual's relation with reality, and with his or her own existence. Hence, such creative acts are necessarily spiritual, independent of their ostensible devoutness, independent of a faith or lack of faith, independent of their allegiance to any particular faith, or to none."

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