- Artist Moataz Nasr
- Title Echo
- Date 1993-2003
- Medium Channel video installation DVD, 4,270 minutes
- Duration 3 minutes, 55 seconds
El Ard (The Earth), Youssef Chahine’s 1969 cinematic adaptation of Abdel Rahman El Sharkawi’s novel of the same name, explores Egypt’s struggle against the British occupation during the 1930s while the world was suffering from economic depression. The film is well-known for a scene that features a four-minute monologue by the protagonist Abu Swelam, in which he expresses his deep frustration with the passive and apathetic attitude of the Egyptian people towards their country’s socio-political affairs. This powerful cinematic moment reflected the stagnant state of society and articulated the sentiments of frustration and disillusionment shared by many at the time. It continues to resonate with people throughout the Arab world, many still capable of reciting the monologue from memory.
In 2003, artist Moataz Nasr filmed the Egyptian storyteller Chirine El Ansary standing in the middle of a coffee shop in downtown Cairo, reciting the monologue from the film with the same passion and urgency as Abu Swelam. Echo screens the well-known sequence from El Ard alongside Nasr’s footage of El Ansary. The projections face and echo one another, suggesting that the problems which faced Egyptian society in 1933 and 1969 remain unresolved in 2003. The juxtaposed scenes highlight the political and social inertia that has characterised this 70-year period.
With this film, Nasr invites the viewer to meditate over the words spoken first by Abu Swelam and repeated 70 years later by El Ansary, ‘We are living in words, nothing but words’.