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Artists in Egypt turn abandoned spaces into DIY art galleries


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In Mada Masr, an independent, progressive news website based in Cairo, Rowan El Shimi writes about the innovative exhibition work of Mahatat for Contemporary Arts, an Egyptian art organization. Repurposing abandoned buildings and disused public spaces around the country, Mahatat creates free art exhibitions outside the borders of Egypt’s centralized art world. Later this month Mahatat will also release a free DIY exhibition toolkit in print and online. Here’s an excerpt from El Shimi’s article:

Egypt is full of abandoned spaces, but this new project’s pilot experiment took place in Port Said on July 16 and 17 in an derelict yard behind two buildings. One of these is the remarkably grand and ornate romanesque building known as Villa Fernand on Abdel Salam Aref Street — it’s among the city’s many neglected heritage sites and is slowly disintegrating.

Entitled City Shadows, the pilot was a two-day exhibition curated by photographer Nadia Mounier that included her work, old found objects (such as a Titanic soundtrack CD case, a toy gun and a tea cup), and selected works from local artists. It revolved around Port Said’s popular culture and inhabitants’ relationship with the city’s history and urban fabric. Mounier incorporated dim yet colorful lighting, a projected film, and an experimental performance by Cairo-based musicians Nancy Mounir on violin and Omar Mostafa on electronics. On the second night, musicians from Port Said came with their instruments to jam with Mounir and Mostafa.

Twenty-eight-year-old Nadia Mounier was an apt choice, as a prolific artist who has been involved in various projects that connect art with public and urban spaces, such as all-female photography collective Cairo Bats, the very popular Everyday Egypt Facebook and Instagram accounts, and the women-in-agriculture-themed-film The Visit (2015), as well as exhibiting in more traditional spaces, such as Mashrabiya Gallery.

Image via Mada Masr