Egypt’s arts and culture: The best of May 2016

Ahram Online , Tuesday 31 May 2016

Ahram Online highlights Egypt's artistic achievements and important cultural events of May 2016

best of may

Theatrical adaptation of Orwell's 1984 performed at Hanager Theatre

Abir Ali directs El-Romady (Gray), an adaptation of George Orwell's novel Nineteen Eighty-Four (1984). The play was adapted to theatre by Amal El-Marghani and staged by the independent troupe El-Messaharatibetween 14 and 27 May at Hanager Arts Centre.

The performance was an interactive experience with instructions leading the audience through the space.

Echoing elements from the dystopian novel, screens and cameras duplicate scenes from life: video projections show war scenes, landscapes, etc. to emphasise the idea of a mechanical life.

Songs written and performed by Mohamad Ali, who plays the protagonist (Smith), summarised some ideas and scenes from the novel.

Read our review of the play here.

Grey, play directed by Abi Ali, based on Orwell's novel 1984 (Photo: Al Ahram Hebdo)

Celebrated Algerian singer Souad Massi’s concert in Cairo

Renowned songstress Souad Massi performed at Cairo’s The Marquee on Thursday, 19 May.

A widely influential artist, Massi is known for fusing North African folk flamenco to rock influences. Based in Paris, her albums have received international acclaim, and she has millions of fans both in the Arab world and internationally.

Massi is also very popular in Egypt, with her soulful unique vocals, poetic lyrics and swaying rhythms ranging from simple to rich melodies. She played two successful concerts last year in the country, in Alexandria on 24 April and Cairo on 26 April.

Her latest album, Al-Mutakallimun (Masters of The Word), released in 2015, crafts songs from a set of 10 Arabic poems, dating between 6th century classics to modern works of poetry by renowned Arab wordsmiths.

Check our interview with Souad Massi here, and a video on her performance.

Souad Massi
Souad Massi live at The Marquee in Cairo, 2016(Photo: Rawan Ezzat)

Internationally acclaimed pianist Wael Farouk’s two concerts in Cairo

US-based Egyptian pianist Wael Farouk gave two concerts with the Cairo Symphony Orchestra on Saturday 14 May, followed by a solo recital on Monday 16 May.

On 14 May, Farouk performed Rachmaninoff’s Piano Concerto No. 1 with the Cairo Symphony Orchestra conducted by Hisham Gabr.

On Monday 16 May, Farouk gave a solo recital focused on Rachmaninoff’s works, including Variations on Chopin's Prelude Op.28 No 20, in C Minor; Rachmaninoff-Richardson's Vocalise Op. 32, No. 14; Bach-Rachmaninoff's Gavotte (From E Major Partita for Violin); Kreisler-Rachmaninoff's Liebeslied (Love’s Sorrow) and Leibesfreud (Love’s Joy), among works by other composers.

Farouk was born in Cairo in 1981, and graduated from the Cairo Conservatory. Having solicited many accolades in Egypt – receiving, among the other things, the Youngest Egyptian Talent Prize (given by the former First Lady Susan Mubarak), at 13 – and making his orchestral debut, at 19, with Egypt’s premiere of Rachmaninoff’s Piano Concerto No. 3 with the Cairo Symphony Orchestra conducted by Patrick Fournillier in 2000, Farouk continued his education in the USA. He began as a Fulbright Fellow studying at the Catholic University of America in Washington, moved on to receive a number of certificates and finally earned a doctorate (DMA) from the Rutgers University in New Jersey (2015).

Since 2003, Farouk has lived in the USA, where he started a family. He performs prolifically across five continents at the most prestigious halls – the White Hall in St. Petersburg, the Carnegie Hall in New York and Schumann’s house in Leipzig – and is on the faculty of the Chicago College of the Performing Arts at Roosevelt University. Among his commitments, he still makes time to visit and perform in Egypt.

Read our interview with pianist Wael Farouk here.

Wael Farouk
Wael Farouk in solo recital at the Cairo Opera House, 16 May 2016 (Photo: Bassam Al Zoghby)

Cairotronica: Electronic and New Media Arts Symposium

The first iteration of what is planned to be a biennial event, Cairotronica was held between 3 and 15 May.

A symposium of electronic and new media arts, Cairotronica brought to Cairo 13 days of activities, exhibitions, talks, workshops and screenings by over 50 local, regional, international artists, academics and technology experts.

Under the theme of ‘Connect,’ Cairotronica aimed to act as a platform, catalyst and incubator; offering a space to connect disciplines, people, artists, designers, ideas and nations.

The two week programme included an exhibition of public art, live performances and video arts screenings of experimental film and animation held at the Palace of Arts.

It also organized three day conference, hosting academics and artists from around the world to discuss Art and Consciousness in the Post-Biological Era, part of AUC’s The Consciousness Reframed series and held in cooperation with the Planetary Collegium, Plymouth University, UK.

During the two weeks a set of curated films screened at Zawya cinema, and local and international artists held a number of performances and workshops on digital media.

Read more about the two-week festival here and here.

(Photo: part of promotional material of Cairotronica )

Samuel Beckett’s Waiting for Godot staged on Cairo’s Falaki theatre

Waiting for Godot, Samuel Beckett’s existentialist tragicomedy directed by Mostafa Khalil, was staged on Cairo’s Falaki theatre for four days between 21 and 26 May.

Written by Samuel Beckett, Waiting for Godot, is absurdist play originally written in French in 1948, premiering in Paris in 1953.

Two seemingly homeless men Vladimir and Estragon wait for a man named Godot, who may or may not show up. Poddo and his slave Lucky eventually join them for some time, as well as a messenger from the mysterious Godot.

The play was performed by Waleed Hammad, Nezar Alderazi, Jason Will and Maria Doyle.

Beckett’s script comes to life through exciting performances and characters that made the agony of waiting in vain for Godot a thoroughly enjoyable and worthwhile evening, earning itself a standing ovation from the audience.

Khalil taught at Helen O’Grady Drama Academy, a prominent drama school for children with locations across African countries, after many years of acting. In April 2015 Rawabet Theatre hosted For Her, Khalil’s debut as a playwright.

Read our feature story about the play here.

Waiting for Godot
Lucky, Estragon, Vladimir and Pozzo in Waiting for Godot, directed by Mostafa Khalil (Photo: Ahmed Taha)

Egyptian renowned artist Nagy Shaker retrospective

At the Gezira art center, a retrospective of Egyptian jack-of-all-arts Nagy Shaker showcased the breadth and depth of the artist’s career. The exhibition opened at the end of April and run until 19 May.

An artist, puppeteer, film director and scenographer, costume designer and graphic designer, and art professor at Helwan Fine Arts Faculty, Shaker is best known as the chief designer and puppet maker of El-Leila El-Kebira, the 1960s iconic marionette musical with lyrics and music by Salah Jaheen and Sayed Mekkawy.

To Shaker all arts are connected, and his retrospective offers a look across six decades of artistic practice, showcasing his artistic fluidity and aptitude in all the genres he explored, placed in the Gezira Art Center’s four halls.

Check our story with photos from the exhibition here.

Nagy Shaker retrospective
Nagy Shaker retrospective exhibition at Gezira Art Center (Photo: Soha Elsirgany)


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