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Egypt's arts and culture: The best of Jan/Feb 2016

Ahram Online highlights Egypt's artistic achievements and important cultural events of January and February 2016

Ahram Online , Monday 29 Feb 2016
The best of Jan/Feb 2016
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A Sculptor’s Dream: Mahmoud Mokhtar’s legacy in dance

Directed by Aouni, The Egyptian Modern Dance Theater Company performed A Sculptor’s Dream on 27 and 28 January at the Cairo Opera House, and on 6 and 7 February in Alexandria. The performance also marks Mahmoud Mokhtar’s 125th birthday.

A Sculptor’s Dream was inspired by the life and work of iconic Egyptian sculptor Mahmoud Mokhtar, which spanned the Renaissance in Egypt during the 1920s.

Mokhtar’s iconic statues of marble and bronze were deeply rooted in Egyptian heritage, drawing from pharaonic motifs, and fusing them with a modernist approach, making him a pioneer for his contemporaries and generations to come.

A Sculptor’s Dream is like episodes of impressions, like a series of moving paintings that are both figurative and abstract.

The first character on stage, and the most prominent throughout the performance, is a half-naked man dressed in an ancient Egyptian white tunic. In his hands he holds a chisel and hammer, which he hands to another main character: The Sculptor.

The sculptor is identified by his working clothes, a white artist coat, black jeans, and sturdy black leather shoes. The relationship between the former and the latter is more a guardianship than a mentorship—as if the gods of ancient Egypt were watching over the sculptor without interfering in his work.

Read the complete review here

A Sculptor
A Sculptor's Dream (Photo: Bassam Al Zoghby)

Two Egyptian artists shortlisted for prestigious Jameel Prize

Egyptian artists Wael Shawky and Bahia Shehab were among the 11 artists and designers shortlisted to receive this year's Victoria and Albert Museum’s (V&A) Jameel Prize – awarded every two years -- that is in its fourth round.

Shakwy, who is based in Alexandria, presented his project Cabaret Crusades: The Path to Cairo (2012), the second chapter of a trilogy in which he tackles the histories of the crusades from an Arab perspective based on Amin Maalouf’s 1983 book The Crusades Through Arab Eyes.

A designer and associate professor at The American University in Cairo, Shehab’s work tackles contemporary design issues with traditional Arabic script and calligraphy.

Her project, titled A Thousand Times No (2010), traces the history of the Arabic letter lam-alif, which spells the word for "no" in Arabic. The project also displays on a plexiglass curtain a thousand different shapes of the word in Islamic history.

Read more here

Jameel Prize
Work of Wael Shawky and Bahia Shehab, shortlisted for Jameel Prize 4 (Photos: Courtesy of V&A press release)

Egypt's soprano Fatma Said wins prestigious Dublin Int'l Singing Competition

Egyptian soprano Fatma Said has won this year's Veronica Dunne International Singing Competition in Dublin. The results were announced on 28 January during a special gala that included six finalists.

The 24-year-old Egyptian soprano has already taken the classical music world by storm, having won a multitude of awards over a brief 10-year time span.

In 2011, Said won the second award at the 16th International Schuman Lied Contest, as well as the Grand Award at the Giulio Peroti International Opera Contest. In 2012, she won both first prize and the audience prize at the 7th Leyla Gencer Voice Competition that took place in Istanbul, Turkey.

She then decided to apply for a scholarship at the prestigious La Scala Academy in Milan, Italy. Having passed through four rounds of very competitive screenings, Said found herself in a group of 11 young talents chosen by the Academy from thousands of preliminary applicants. She is also the first Egyptian singer to be accepted in this world-renowned institution.

Said completed her studies last July, and is now preparing for her first lead role in La Scala, in Mozart's Magic Flute, scheduled to premiere in September.

Read more about the competition here  and our interview with Said here

Fatma Said
Fatma Said (Photo: Al Ahram Weekly)
 

Three Egyptians shortlisted for prestigious Sony Award for photography

Three Egyptian photographers were shortlisted for the 2016 Sony World Photography Award, competing in the biggest international competition.
Nader Saadallah was shortlisted in the Open competition Arts & Culture category, Ahmed Gaber in the Youth competition Portraiture category and Armand Tamboly in the Professional competition Portraiture category.

Selected by a panel of experts, all three are now in competition to win in their categories, and Tamboly, who is in the professional competition, is qualifying for the $25,000 prize and the L’Iris d’Or/ Photographer of the Year title. Saadallah is competing for Open photographer of the year, with a $5,000 prize, and all winners will receive the latest digital photography equipment from Sony.

The shortlist includes “over 270 photographers from nearly 60 countries being represented, the most in the awards’ nine-year history,” according to World Photography Organization press release.

Read more here

Rasheed
Rasheed by Ahmed Gaber, shortlisted in Youth competition for Portraiture at 2016 Sony World Photography Awards (Photo: Courtesy of World Photography Organisation press office)

Carmina Burana in Cairo and Alexandria

The famed classic cantata by Carl Orff was performed at the Bibliotheca Alexandrina on 5 February and at the American University in Cairo's Ewart Hall on 6 February.

Conducted by Hisham Gabr, the event saw the participation of over 200 artists, including the Bibliotheca Alexandrina (BA) Chamber Orchestra, the BA Youth Orchestra alongside the BA Choir, and BA Children Choir, joined by the Heaven Harp Choir. The choir master was Rodica Ocheseanu.

The evenings was be also joined by three French renowned soloists, soprano Marilyn Clément, tenor Bertrand Dazin, and baritone Richard Rittelmann.

Check the photo gallery from the rehearsal and both concerts here

Carmina Burana

Egypt's strong presence at Berlinale 2016

This year, there was a significant presence of Egyptian filmmakers and other artists in the Berlin International Film Festival which run between 11 and 21 February

The Egyptian films were screened a part of Forum Section with Tamer El Said's 'In the Last Days of the City' winning Caligari Film Prize (see below)

Forum Expanded saw five films directed by Egyptian filmmakers or Egyptian cast screened.

Two Egyptian candidates – film distributor Ahmed Sobky and film critic and journalist Rasha Hosny – were among 300 emerging film and drama series professionals invited from 79 countries, to the Berlinale Talents, an event which takes place between 13 and 18 February.

Read more about Egypt’s participation in Berlinale 2016 here

Tamer El Said's 'In the Last Days of the City' wins Caligari Film Prize at Berlinale 2016

Directed by Tamer El-Said and starring Khalid Abdalla, the film 'In the Last Days of the City' (Akher Ayyam El-Medina) was screened in the Forum segment of the Berlin International Film Festival, which run between 11 and 21 February. The film was also nominated for the Best Feature Award, while it won an independent Caligari Film Prize.

In the Last Days of the City has been chosen as the only entry by an Egyptian director to take part in the 46th annual Berlinale Forum. This was the film's world premiere.

According to information provided by the Berlinale website, each year, a five-person jury awards the Caligari Film Prize to a film in the Forum.

"The prize is sponsored by the German Federal Association of Communal Film Work and 'filmdienst' magazine. The winning film is honoured with 4,000 Euros, half of which is given to the director, the other half is meant to fund distribution."

Read more about the prize here  and read our interview with Khalid Abdalla here

In the Last Days of the City
Still from Akher ayam el madina -- In the Last Days of the City (Photo: courtesy of Berlinale 2016)

'The Gate to the Soul' project infuses Cairo's City of the Dead with art

Bawabat Al-Rouh (The Gate to the Soul) is an art project located in Cairo’s City of the Dead, done in collaboration between two artists, Egyptian sculptor Houreya El Sayed and Hungarian sculptor Beata Rostas, and supported by Archinos firm for architectural and restoration solutions.

The project aims at illustrating a tangible ‘gate to the soul’, namely depicting the stage that lies between life and death, which can also enable the visitor to “communicate with the souls he loves,” El Sayed explained to Ahram Online.

Located in Cairo’s City of The Dead, the building was initially constructed along the lines of the late-Mamluk architectural style.

As El Sayed explains, the artists first proceeded to build this gate, whose shape was inspired by the spirit of this area’s buildings, using red brick. They left vacant areas in-between stones that would later be filled with glass units produced by the local glass manufacturing company, to add “an aesthetic value” to the gate but also to further enhance the spiritual meaning it suggests.

The opening of ‘The Gate to the Soul' took place on 21 February, and can be visited by the public anytime.

Read more about the project here

The Gate to the Soul
Egyptian sculptor Houreya El Sayed and Hungarian sculptor Beata Rostas collaborated to illustrate 'The Gate to the Soul' in Cairo's City of the Dead. (Photo: Bassam Al Zoghby)

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