Over the past two weeks chosen buildings in Cairo lit up with screenings of live concerts by Um Kalthoum and Abdel Halim Hafez, as well as Quran reciter Abdul Basit Abdul Samad.
Behind the initiative is Egyptian contemporary, experimental video artist Mohamed Allam who through screenings hopes to bring a breath of change to neighbourhoods amid the night curfew beginning at 8pm. He organises the projections and documents them on his Facebook page.
“I organised the first screening around two weeks ago, in my neighbourhood,” Allam explained to Ahram Online.
“There is this empty wall of a building at the distance of approximately 40 metres. I screened the Quran recitations of Abdul Basit Abdul Samad there. I noticed that people liked it and began watching from their balconies and windows.”
Allam has been thinking about projections for a few years now, and experimenting with the same.
“Now that many people in Egypt and around the world stay at home, I thought this might be a good time to proceed with the idea. There are already many musicians performing on their balconies. Why not projections then?” he said, adding that he is not really looking to make a social experiment. “I’m just trying out options.”
The second creative intervention of Allam featured Egypt’s star Um Kalthoum in concert, also screened in Mounira neighbourhood.
A few days ago Allam used a wall of a building in Cairo’s Faisal Street to project a concert by Abdel Halim Hafez.
“I am considering moving to other neighbourhoods, currently eyeing Maadi for a possible creative intervention in the coming days,” he revealed.
Apart of his creative projects, in the visual arts scene, Allam is well known for being a co-founder and director of Cairo-based artist initiative Medrar for Contemporary Art which aims at the promotion of contemporary artistic practices of young artists in Egypt.
“Since the beginning of cultural shutdown, Medrar also closed its doors, but recently Allam moved some activities online.
“We launched an online programme, featuring 11 artists from different backgrounds. With videos posted on our Facebook each Sunday and Thursday, the artists touch on many creative forms, they provide live performances or participate in live lectures,” Allam explains.
“The past weeks have been financially difficult for many artists, but I remain optimistic. I can see a few opportunities opening up for the artists, grants, etc,” he comments.
Allam also underlines that the scene has seen a surge in alternative creative formats, even if online.
“I also found time to try to finalize a couple of projects that were not moving forward. I am working on two films now which will hopefully see light soon,” he concludes
“Born in Assiut in 1984, Allam studied at the Arts Education Faculty of Helwan University in Cairo. Allam works in Cairo using different mediums such as video, performance and sound,” the artists biography reveals.
Interested in “different forms of performativity, he playfully creates narratives and interves with existing ones. His work also explores relationships between humans and objects, and the physical environment and context that brings them both together.”
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(Photo: courtesy of Mohamed Allam)