Egyptian painter participates in freedom of expression festival in Norway

Ahram Online, Wednesday 27 Feb 2013

Norway celebrates freedom of expression in arts and culture festival 'Red Zone' held in Oslo from 28 February to 3 March, featuring an exhibition by Egyptian artist Mohamed Abla

Mohamed Abla. Photo: Sherif Sonbol

Artists from North Africa, the Middle East, Iran, Vietnam and Norway will participate in "Red Zone: Free the Arts," a dynamic festival scheduled to be held in Oslo from 28 February to 3 March, aiming to spotlight freedom of expression on the global art scene.

Famed artists from the Middle East, including Palestinian singer Rim Banna, 'Syrian Bear' Yumal, Lebanese musician Tania Saleh and Egyptian painter Mohamed Abla are at the forefront of this international culture-event. 

An exhibition entitled "Images in Times of Rebellion" featuring paintings by prominent contemporary Egyptian visual artist Mohamad Abla will be held throughout the festival at Jakobs Brønn (the church cellar).

The Egyptian artist will showcase a collection of artworks entitled "Wolves," which he previously exhibited on Facebook, due to their sensitive nature. 

They were painted as a reaction to the military's crackdown on peaceful protests at a cabinet sit-in in December 2011, which left 13 dead. The works blatantly criticise the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces (SCAF) and the army, portraying them as wolves. 

According to Abla, private local galleries would have refused to display the works.

Through designing a diverse line-up featuring music, poetry, film, dance, performance art, visual and installation art, "Red Zone: Free the Arts" organisers Kulturkirken Jakob (‘Culture Church Jacob’) and Kirkelig Kulturverksted seek to enshrine freedom of expression through art. 

“Art has a different and perhaps deeper way of describing and understanding reality than the often simplified and one-sided formulas of the news media. We have no real freedom of expression if artists don’t have the freedom to express themselves as they want to, and if they don’t have an arena and an open channel to reach a broad audience," says head of Kirkelig Kulturverksted Erik Hillestad.

"This is a challenge, not only in countries that have a general problem with freedom of expression. It is also an issue in Western democracies.” 

Seeking to spark debate on culture and identity and forms of expression in light of political pressure and transformation, Red Zone brings together a diverse group of artists from societies facing oppression such as Iran, Palestine, Egypt and Syria.

During the festival, the award-winning Iranian film “Parviz” will be screened, with an appearance and talk by director Majid Barzegar.

A concert scheduled for 3 March, which is also Music Freedom Day, will feature Tania Saleh (Lebanon), Rim Banna (Palestine) and Bugge Wesseltoft (Norway), and Checkpoint303 (Palestine and Tunisia), among others. 

Red Zone is funded by the Norwegian Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Fritt Ord (Freedom of Expression Foundation) and Arts Council Norway.

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