Egypt's arts and culture: The best of May 2015

Ahram Online , Saturday 30 May 2015

Ahram Online highlights the artistic achievements and important cultural events by Egyptian artists in May 2015

The best of May

Cinema Shareana brings film screenings to Cairo's Al-Salam

Cinema Shareana was founded by Mustapha Hussein and screens a variety of films for free in the streets of Al-Salam, a working class neighbourhood of Cairo.

The initiative aims to reclaim the public's right to entertainment, one that has long been inaccessible. Moreover, it aspires to allow people to experience cinema outside the scope of commercial film productions, and by doing so hopes it can direct people's attention to the abundance of available options, and allow them to craft their own personal taste in the process. 

The first screening was held 1 May and showed the Iranian film Children of Heaven (1997) by Majid Majidi. 

On 15 May, the French film The Little Girl Who Sold the Sun (1999) by Djibril Diop Mambéty was screened and on 29 May, Mary Poppins, a 1964 film was screened. 

Read more about the initiative here

Il Trovatore
Il Trovatore (Photo: Sherif Sonbol)

Verdi's opera II Trovatore returns to Cairo

Performed between 14 and 17 May, Verdi's Il Trovatore returned to the Cairo Opera House after a very long hiatus. The opera was previously performed during the first season of the then newly built Opera House in Zamalek, staged by a foreign orchestra and choir, with soloists from Sofia, Bulgaria.

This time, the curtain opened to a performance by soloists from the Cairo Opera Company and guest singers, with the Cairo Opera Orchestra and Cairo Opera Choir conducted by David Crescenzi, directed by Hisham El-Tally.

Love, jealousy and revenge, paralleled with great music and captivating arias make Il Trovatore a great experience for audiences. However, it is also a challenging work in terms of production. With many scenes taking place in different settings, the opera requires a lot of skill on the level of scenography. It also calls for a large cast needed in many group scenes as well as particularly talented soloists to face Verdi's musical demands. 

For the Cairo Opera Company, performing Verdi's masterpiece sends an important message that the company, soloists, choir, orchestra, all artistic team, are able to reinvent themselves and address such demanding work to exacting artistic standards.

Read more about the opera here

Light Talk exhibition
Light Talk exhibition (Photo: Ati Metwaly)


Light Talk exhibition by Nagy Shaker at the Faculty of Fine Arts

On 20 May, Nagy Shaker's "Light Talk" experimental exhibition opened at the Faculty of Fine Arts in Zamalek 

Light Talk is a display of 14 installations or "paintings," as Shaker calls them, each incorporating unique light techniques to express the artist's dream. The rectangular blocks or boxes, rotating around a vertical axis or fixed, are illuminated from the inside. Different materials are used create colours, bend, reflect or refract light. Music inside the hall complements the visuals bringing them a step closer to a theatrical experience. 

Over the decades of artistic practice, Shaker touched on many art forms, experimenting in visual theatre, cinema, paintings, sculpture, graphic work, and even interior and architectural design.

Though occupying a small room, Shaker's exhibition incorporates values that go beyond the walls of the Faculty of Fine Arts. Each box testifies to his journey in creativity and his relationship to light, all together speaking of an important legacy of this renowned artist. Named by Shaker to represent his dreams, the display is equally dream-inspiring to the viewer. 

Read more about the exhibition here

Sound of Egypt Orchestra
Sound of Egypt Orchestra (Photo: Zafar Azimov, courtesy of Ahmed Atef)

Sound of Egypt Orchestra 

On 8 May, the Cairo Opera House Main Hall housed a concert by the Sound of Egypt Orchestra, conducted by founder Ahmed Atef and playing music from well known Egyptian movies. 

The evening was dubbed "Classics of National Drama" and was a journey through reflections on Egyptian identity, its people and their burdens, as captured by filmmakers, with fragments of movies projected onto the large screen onstage.

Though the Sound of Egypt Orchestra is not completely new to Cairo audiences, it seems now to be gaining well deserved momentum.

Founded in 2013, the orchestra aims to shed light on Egypt's incidental music, incorporating film scores, music for television series and theatre plays. Included are many works from movies of the 1960s as well as a number of Atef's own works. 

The Sound of Egypt Orchestra is beginning to establish itself as an important channel for music and musicians to present their work, while audiences have an opportunity to revisit known compositions, notice the unnoticed and get reacquainted with the many valuable works of Egyptian composers.

Read more about the concert here



Oscar-nominated Palestinian thriller Omar in Egypt cinemas

On 20 May, director Hany Abu-Assad's Oscar-nominated film Omar was released in Egyptian movie theatres.

Omar follows the love story between Omar and Nadia, who reside on different sides of the Israeli separation wall that cuts through the Palestinian West Bank. When Omar is arrested by the Israelis and asked to act as an informant, a series of climactic events unfold, spinning a web of danger and betrayal around the two lovers. The result is an honest, multi-layered, introspective look into the life of young Palestinians under Israeli occupation. 

Omar premiered at the 2013 Cannes Film Festival, winning the Un Certain Regard Special Jury Prize. It also won Best Film and Best Director at the 2013 Dubai International Film Festival.

Bahia Shehab
Bahia Shehab's exhibition (Photo: courtesy of the artist)

Egyptian artist's art intervention in Freiburg im Breisgau, Germany

In A 1,000 Times No (2011–) Bahia Shehab uses the rich and beautiful tradition of Arabic calligraphy to address contemporary issues.

A book and the streets have become her favourite media to express views, dreams and hopes for a better Egypt and a society that remembers its aesthetic and cultural values.

Her intervention in Freiburg consist of two parts. The first is an intervention on the Wiwili bridge where the artist paints different representations of word "No", each taken from Arab monuments from the past 1,400 years. By combining them with current messages she sends out a signal to the rise of extremist movements, such as radicalised Islamism or right-wing parties.

The second part is Exhibition E –WERK, a project in which the artist deepens the public's encounter with Arabic script and architecture through an artist’s book and a sound installation to explore understandings of identity.

Cinema Shareana
(Photo courtesy of Mustapha Hussien)

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