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Egypt's arts and culture: The best of February 2014

Ahram Online highlights artistic achievements, important cultural events and new initiatives in February 2014

Ahram Online, Friday 28 Feb 2014
best of Feb

Egyptian short film wins award at Berlinale Talents

Sherif El-Bendary's Dry Hot Summers won one of the Robert Bosch Stiftung Film Prizes for International Cooperation, a special award for cooperative projects between young German and Arab filmmakers awarded during Berlin's largest film festival, the Berlinale. The film is written by Nura El-Sheikh and co-produced by Claudia Jubeh (Germany) and Hossam El-Ouan (Egypt).

Dry Hot Summers is a 30-minute film capturing the chance encounter of two lonely Egyptians on a bustling and hot summer day in Cairo. The day's journey disturbs the stifling routines of the two characters, taking them on an expedition of self-discovery.

The jury released the following statement about Dry Hot Summers: "The team convinced the jury for its very precise acoustic and visual concept and its love for details in a bittersweet story of ordinary people in a dusty hot city."

Wael Shawky shows film in Cairo after a five-year hiatus from showcasing in Egypt

One of Egypt's globally acclaimed contemporary Egyptian artists, Wael Shawky, screened his film Al-Araba Al-Madfuna as part of an elaborate sand installation in Cairo's art space Beirut.

Al-Araba Al-Madfuna was produced using an award he received from the German Ernst Schering Foundation in 2011. The 20-minute black and white film zooms in on a village in Upper Egypt -- which lends the film its title -- where a group of local children retell folk tales in grown men's voices, with text appropriated from a short story by the late Egyptian writer Mohamed Mustagab. The video installation debuted in a solo exhibit at the KW Institute for Contemporary Art in Berlin in August 2012.

Shawky's last solo show in Egypt was held in 2009 at the Townhouse Gallery in Cairo under the title "Clean History". One of the 43-year-old artist's most important achievements so far is MASS, the studio space and study programme he established in his hometown Alexandria in 2010.

Al-Araba Al-Madfuna
Al-Araba Al-Madfuna, 2011, film still

Cairokee release their third album Sekka Shemal (An Indecent Path)

Founded in 2004, independent rock band Cairokee became a hit with the revolution with their hit single 'Sowt El-Horreya' (The Voice of Freedom). During the years they have produced several albums with their latest - released this month - 'Sekka Shemal' (An Indecent Path) counting as their most anticipated and successful.

In the first three days after its release, the first copy of Sekka Shemal was entirely sold out. By the end of the week, it had become the album with the highest number of downloads and purchases on iTunes. The band's latest album is their most diverse one to date, tackling a variety of topics and showing the musicians' maturity and development also. The album also features a song in collaboration with internationally acclaimed Algerian musician Soad Massi.

Sekka Shemal
Photo: fragment from 'Sekka Shemal' album cover

Cairo's Artellewa and Alexandria's Gudran showcase works in Scandanavia's largest art fair Supermarket

Two Egyptian art initiatives, one from Cairo and another from Alexandria, exhibited work this month in the ninth edition of the Supermarket Art Fair in Stockholm, Sweden, Scandinavia's largest international art fair, featuring innovative artwork from 80 artist-run spaces in 30 countries.

Artellewa, a space in Giza that hosts exhibitions, events and art residencies, exhibited two photographs from Artwella's founder, Hamdy Reda -- one a reimagining of the Egyptian flag, the other a landscape of Ard El-Lewa, the impoverished district where the art space is located. Also a part of Artwella's exhibition are paintings from Hana El-Degham, one of the first artists to exhibit in the space, and Samah El-Degham, who will present portraits of the various children that she has worked with in workshops at the venue in Giza.

Gudran had an entry dedicated to its newest space, Wekalet Behna, set to open in March. Once the office of Behna Films, one of Egypt's biggest cinema distributors from the 1930s to 1950s, the 12-room apartment has since been turned into both a museum about Behna's legacy and a platform for Alexandria's growing visual art and independent film scene. The exhibition in Stockholm will included damaged photographs from Wekalet Behna's archives that demonstrate how political change negatively impacted Egyptian art in the 1960s, when the film company was nationalised under the rule of then-president Gamal Abdel-Nasser and thus went into debt.

The other entry by Gudran to the art fair is a photography-inspired piece by one of the institute's founders, visual artist Aliaa El-Gready. The project, 'If Time were Liquid',  features a series of photographs of well-known downtown Alexandria luminaries, with them staged in a manner that is at once antiquated yet contemporary, in essence a statement on how nostalgia functions in both our anticipations of the future and our understanding of the present.

Gharam Rakissa
Scene from “Gharam Rakissa“, Director: Helmy Rafla, Director of Photography: Bruno Salvi, Photographer: Hussin Bakr, Production Year: 1950, Photography on Paper (Photo Courtesy of: Gudran)

Artists collaborate to add new layers to Kasr El-Nil graffiti

February saw several artists collaborate for a number of days to add new layer to one of Cairo's most vibrant - and still standing - graffiti walls at the end of Kasr El-Nil street in Downtown Cairo.

The wall, which already featured works that were painted in late 2013 by several artists such as Ganzeer, has been a consistent work in progress and continues to be a canvas for artists to feature revolutionary - and non revolution related - graffiti works that is truly unique in nature. The wall features not only paint but also objects sticking out of it such as antique frames and canisters and car parts.

Artist Kareem Osman added a seemingly three-dimension cube that forms an optical illusion, playing with passerbys. Hailing from Luxor, and responsible for many of the works on Mohamed Mahmoud's wall over the past two years, Ammar Abo Bakr adds his touch to the wall with a masked female, while graffiti artist El-Teneen adds colourful wings. The Monalisa Brigades crew also add their signature portrait, this time of a local woman inspired by acclaimed artist Mahmoud Saeed's painting, complete with an eye patch and pesticide spray.

The current stage of work is not done yet, and this group of artists will be continuing adding their touches to the wall in the coming days.

Kasr El-Nil graffiti
Kasr El-Nil graffiti (Photo: Rowan El Shimi)

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