Wael Shawky, Al Araba Al Madfuna Ia (still), 2012. Digital video, black and white, sound; 21 minutes. Commissioned by Sharjah Art Foundation and KW Institute for Contemporary Art, Berlin. Produced by the Ernst Schering Foundation, Berlin. Sharjah Art Foundation Collection


Sharjah Art Foundation’s Film Programme is screening Wael Shawky’s Al Araba Al Madfuna I (2012) and Al Araba Al Madfuna II (2013) online this Friday, 15 May 2020. Part of the Sharjah Art Foundation Collection, the films are the first two works of a trilogy.

Inspired by the artist’s experience with residents in the village of Al Araba Al Madfuna, one of the oldest cities in Upper Egypt, the films feature children from the village, dressed as grown men, who retell stories by Egyptian novelist and short story writer Mohamed Mustagab (1938–2005). The two multi-layered films, shot in black and white in the tradition of classic Egyptian movies, explore how the ideologies and behaviours of earlier generations may be carried on, sometimes in extreme ways, by their descendants.

In Al Araba Al Madfuna I, Shawky draws on a story by Mustagab about a dying tribal leader whose tribe blindly follows the guidance of his ‘last word’ to worship certain animals. In Al Araba Al Madfuna II, he retells Mustagab’s parables ‘Horsemen Adore Perfumes’ and ‘The Offering’.

Winner of the Ernst Schering Foundation Art Award (2011), Shawky was commended by the jury for his work in film, which they characterised as ‘remarkably impressive due to its consistent development and extraordinary precision. His re-performances of historical and political events ignite unconventional perspectives, which exceed reflections of Egyptian societal structures. He creates images that are crafted with technical mastership and therefore induce an immediate persuasiveness.’

Shown in Sharjah Biennial 11 (2013), Al Araba Al Madfuna I premiered as part of a solo exhibition at the KW Institute for Contemporary Art, Berlin (2012). Al Araba Al Madfuna II, co-produced by Sharjah Art Foundation and the Wiener Festwochen, premiered at the Serpentine galleries, London (2013). It was also featured in the solo exhibition Wael Shawky: Horsemen Adore Perfumes and other stories at Sharjah Art Foundation in 2014.

In 2013 Shawky was awarded the Sharjah Biennial 11 Prize for his performance and installation work Dictums 10:120 (2011–2013). His major theatrical performance The Song of Roland: The Arabic Version (2017), co-produced by Sharjah Art Foundation, premiered at the Theatre del Welt, Hamburg, in 2017. Following later in the year were performances at the Holland Festival, Amsterdam; Zürcher Theater Spektakel, Zurich; and Onassis Cultural Centre, Athens; and in 2018, the work was presented at the Foundation. Selections from his drawing and installation series ‘Gulf Project Camp’ were shown in Sharjah Biennial 14 (2019).

The livestream can be accessed at 9:30 pm through this link. As the films will be screened consecutively and as they cannot be streamed on demand, viewers who join the streaming at a later time will not be able to watch the entire film programme from the beginning. The films are in Arabic with English subtitles.

Previous online screenings organised by the Sharjah Art Foundation Film Programme include Black Girl (1966), directed by Ousmane Sembene; The Three Disappearances of Soad Hosni (2011), directed by Rania Stephan; and The Landing (2019), directed by Akram Zaatari.

Future screenings and upcoming films will be announced via our website and social media channels.
For more information, visit sharjahart.org.

About Sharjah Art Foundation

Sharjah Art Foundation is an advocate, catalyst and producer of contemporary art within the Emirate of Sharjah and the surrounding region, in dialogue with the international arts community. Under the leadership of founder Hoor Al Qasimi, a curator and artist, the Foundation advances an experimental and wide-ranging programmatic model that supports the production and presentation of contemporary art, preserves and celebrates the distinct culture of the region and encourages a shared understanding of the transformational role of art. The Foundation’s core initiatives include the long-running Sharjah Biennial, featuring contemporary artists from around the world; the annual March Meeting, a convening of international arts professionals and artists; grants and residencies for artists, curators and cultural producers; ambitious and experimental commissions and a range of travelling exhibitions and scholarly publications.

Established in 2009 to expand programmes beyond the Sharjah Biennial, which launched in 1993, the Foundation is a critical resource for artists and cultural organisations in the Gulf and a conduit for local, regional and international developments in contemporary art. The Foundation’s deep commitment to developing and sustaining the cultural life and heritage of Sharjah is reflected through year-round exhibitions, performances, screenings and learning programmes in the city of Sharjah and across the Emirate, often hosted in historic buildings that have been repurposed as cultural and community centres. A growing collection reflects the Foundation’s support of contemporary artists in the realisation of new work and its recognition of the contributions made by pioneering modern artists from the region and around the world.

Sharjah Art Foundation is a legally independent public body established by Emiri Decree and supported by government funding, grants from national and international nonprofits and cultural organisations, corporate sponsors and individual patrons. All exhibitions are free and open to the public.

About Sharjah

Sharjah is the third largest of the seven United Arab Emirates and the only one bridging the Arabian Gulf and the Gulf of Oman. Reflecting the deep commitment to the arts, architectural preservation and cultural education embraced by its ruler, Sheikh Dr Sultan bin Mohammed Al Qasimi, Sharjah is home to more than 20 museums and has long been known as the cultural hub of the United Arab Emirates. It was named UNESCO's Arab Capital of Culture in 1998 and the UNESCO World Book Capital in 2019.

Media Contact

Alyazeyah Al Reyaysa