Barakat Contemporary is holding "Al Araba Al Madfuna", an exhibition of works by contemporary Egyptian artist Wael Shawky, from November 29, 2019 to January 31, 2020. One of the most important contemporary artists in the Middle East, Shawky has presented works with narratives where fact and fiction intermingle through a variety of media including drawings, paintings, and installations, with a focus on films. Reinterpreting existing historical narratives, the artist has addressed concepts regarding artistic, religious, and transnational identities based on extensive research and investigation on history and mythology. Along with the film Al Araba Al Madfuna III, this exhibition showcases Shawky's latest drawings and paintings. A trilogy, Al Araba Al Madfuna is a film inspired by the artist's visit to Al Araba Al Madfuna, a town that possesses ancient ruins and used to be the capital of a dynasty in Upper (southern) Egypt. Having witnessed the locals dig the ground in search of hidden treasures and seek to unearth their ancestors' secrets through alchemy and spiritual activities, Shawky overlays this mysterious experience with the contents of "Sunflowers" from Tales from Dayrut, a short story collection by Egyptian prose fiction writer Mohamed Mustagab, to reconstruct the narrative as a dreamlike film. Shawky's films turn a broad range of themes and abstruse issues into fascinating epic poems. In addition to providing profound reflections on history and tradition, the lyrical visual language that he uses serves to translate the history of the Arabs and the Middle East, which have become fixed through a Western perspective, into contemporary narratives. However, the message conveyed by the artist is not based on a perspective biased toward any one world but points in the direction of healing that encompasses both worlds. Requiems that console the present through his works, narratives of historical contradictions and pain are prayers wishing for a new beginning for the human race in the present and the future alike and have the power of declarations. Through the history of the Middle East and the mysterious tales originating from the region, Shawky has posed sharp questions regarding existing historical descriptions and continued provocative explorations. Such action on the artists part prepares a new path for overcoming national and regional boundaries and identities, which contemporary art has ceaselessly challenged, and creates room for imagining stories after that transcendence.
Press release courtesy Barakat Contemporary.