Celebrating the 200thanniversary of Jean-Francois Champollion’s deciphering of Egyptian hieroglyphs, the French embassy in Egypt and the French Institute in Cairo, in collaboration with the Bibliotheca Alexandrina (the Library of Alexandria) and the French Institute of Oriental Archeology (IFAO), organized an international art exhibition entitled “Writing and Storytelling”.
The exhibition opened on 9 October. The opening was attended by French Ambassador to Egypt Marc Baréty, Director of the IFAO Laurent Coulon, and André Mellinger Mayor of the city of Figeac, the birthplace of Jean-Francois Champollion. Furthermore, present were the Director of Cultural Programming, and exhibition curator, at the Bibliotheca Alexandrina Gamal Hosny, and a host of French diplomats. Officials representing European embassies in Egypt and representatives of the Egyptian Ministry of Tourism and Antiquities and well-known Egyptian and international artists were also present.
The exhibition also displayed paintings, installations, information programmes and books by artists. The combination of such an assortment of works provides alternative ways of reading traditional forms of writing, thus helping us describe the world around us.
Moreover, the exhibition includes both plastic and visual arts, thanks to a partnership with the visual arts department at the Bibliotheca Alexandrina.
The exhibition also aims to link historical periods and languages in order to present as comprehensive a view as possible of human and artistic creativity.
Works of Egyptian and international artists are also on display. This comes as an attempt to view human creativity and expression from a global perspective.
Therefore, the exhibition includes works by artists such as calligrapher Khodeir El-Borsaedi, Salah Abdel-Khaleq, Haytham Nawar, Mariam Abu-Taleb, and Heba Helmi. In addition, the exhibition also showcases works by European artists such as Malone Dietrich (Hungary), Fabio Coruzzi (Italy), Roger Dewint (Belgium), Danko Berkiche (Serbia), Isabel Moutet and Jean Plantureux, aka Plantu, (France), as well as works by Nobuho Nagasawa (Japan), Adenauer Santos Spindola (Brazil), Luis Alberto Hernandez (Venezuela), and Bessie Smith Moulton (USA).
The exhibition tour was followed by a musical concert given by pianist Etienne Champollion and flutist Mina Ghobrial.
Prior to the concert, French Ambassador to Egypt Marc Baréty delivered a speech and said, "The Egyptian-French relationships are too old dating 200 years back, and this exhibition reflects its development on the cultural and artistic level with the participation of a number of French officials. On top of them, the Mayor of the city of Figeac, the birthplace of Jean-Francois Champollion, and French pianist Etienne Champollion, a descendant of Champollion ."
Meanwhile, Hosny pointed out that the cultural cooperation between the French Institute of Oriental Archeology, the French Institute in Cairo, and the Bibliotheca Alexandrina started years ago. He noted, however, that this collaboration is the largest to date, due to the participation of several French entities and international artists.
The French Institute in Egypt is planning a host of other events surrounding the exhibition.
These events begin with a film screening scheduled for 17 October of the film “The Palace of Hieroglyphic.” The film explores the work sites of the archaeological excavation teams at the site TT 33, the largest cemetery near Luxor. The film documents the work of the scientific mission of the French Institute of Oriental Archeology, and the discovery of tombs of priests, scribes, painters, sculptors and tomb builders.
On 20 October, the French Institute in Alexandria will hold a book discussion of French writer Pascale Bellamy’s first novel "The Hidden Temple of Zarzurah or the Epic of the Amon Stone.” In the novel, the author writes about ancient Egypt and the myths surrounding the Siwa Oasis.
On 26 October, the institution conducts a seminar entitled "From Coptic to Hieroglyphics: In the Shadows of Champollion, Coptic Priest Youhanna El Sheftachi." The seminar introduces Egyptologist Ashraf Sadeq who speaks about the most important periods in Champollion's life while deciphering the hieroglyphic language.
The visual arts exhibition is held between 10 October and 14 November at the premises of the French Institute and the IFAO in Downtown Cairo and is open to the public free of charge.