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Friday, 19 July 2019

Enlightenments revisited: Int'l gathering at Goethe Institute pays homage to Islamic heritage

The “Forgotten Enlightenments” event featured discussion of Islamic heritage relevant to the arts, as well as a film screening and sound performance

Maria K., Wednesday 13 Mar 2019
Forgotten Enlightenments
"Forgotten Enlightenments” event at Goethe Institute< Cairo (Photo: Forgotten Enlightenments)
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On 9 March, “Forgotten Enlightenments”, an event at the Goethe Institute in Doqqi, summarised the results of a unique artistic workshop that took place in Cairo in the previous days. The curators and artists involved in the project invited an international and Egyptian audience to share freshly gathered impressions and showcase the artwork of some of the participants.

The initiative by HALLE 14 Centre for Contemporary Art (Germany) and Out of the Circle Organisation (Egypt) aims to draw attention of the artistic community to the rich heritage of Islamic civilisation and its contribution to global knowledge. Cairo, with its mutiple cultural layers and facets, is probably suited for this purpose like no other city in the world.

During the immersive workshop, a group of selected young artists from different cultural backgrounds and creative fields were visiting historical locations in Cairo, sharing their discoveries and emotions with each other along the way.

Forgotten Enlightenments
"Forgotten Enlightenments” event at Goethe Institute< Cairo (Photo: Forgotten Enlightenments)

This moving laboratory of art ideas saw a lot in just four days, including the Nilometer, the Oum Koulthoum Museum, the Museum of Islamic Arts, Abdeen Palace, the Citadel of Saladin, and Mohammed Ali Mosque, under the able guidance of Dr Heba Nayel Barakat, head of curatorial affairs at the Islamic Arts Museum Malaysia (IAMM), as well as other specialists in the field. Prominent galleries such as the Townhouse, Contemporary Image Collective and Medrar were also part of the programme.

Stating the purpose of the project in his speech 9 March, Michael Arzt, artistic director of HALLE 14, underlined the relevance of addressing the topic in today’s world, and admitted a lack of awareness in modern culture about the achievements of Islamic civilisation.

Elham Khattab, founder and curator of the Out of the Circle Organisation, pointed to the significance for artists in the Islamic world of rediscovering their own heritage.

Forgotten Enlightenments
"Forgotten Enlightenments” event at Goethe Institute< Cairo (Photo: Forgotten Enlightenments)

On behalf of participants, the eloquent Mehreen Murtaza, representing Mantiq of Mantis publishing house from Pakistan, expressed hope to continue the contemporary art dialogue that has been initiated. Also present at the event were visual artists Sukaina Joual (Morocco), Anahita Razmi (Germany/Iran) and Islam Shabana (Egypt), who took part in the workshop.

The experimental documentary film “Spin” by Ginan Seidl explored the theme of rotation from the perspective of Sufism and theoretical physics, using contemporary audiovisual language. The open discussion after the film screening took time as the audience was eager to suggest their interpretations and share thoughts on related matters. This sadly left little time for the sound performance by Yara Mekawei.

The activities in Cairo are a part of a larger project “Forgotten Enlightenments: Unknown Stories about Islam in Contemporary Art”, which will result in a large exhibition in HALLE 14, Leipzig (27 April-4 August), with the support of the Federal Cultural Foundation, the Cultural Foundation of the Free State of Saxony, the Institute for International Relations, and the Goethe Institut Cairo, in collaboration with Allianz Cultural Foundation.

Forgotten Enlightenments
"Forgotten Enlightenments” event at Goethe Institute< Cairo (Photo: Forgotten Enlightenments)

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