Friday February 23rd, 2024
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Art & History at ‘If the Walls Could Talk’ Exhibit in Cairo Citadel

Curated by Art d’Egypte and Culturvator, the exhibit will feature over 50 artists at the historic Salah Al Din Citadel.

Farah Desouky

As cars race along the bustling Salah Salem Road in Cairo, the symphony of blaring horns and a medley of car radios creates the familiar soundtrack of an infamous Cairene traffic jam. Amid this urban chaos, the phrase "Salah Salem is blocked" is a refrain every resident of Cairo is bound to utter at some point. Yet, within this urban turmoil, there stands a monumental landmark, one of Egypt's countless historic treasures, the Salah Al Din Citadel, crowned with its gleaming silver dome.

Also known as the Cairo Citadel, the mediaeval Islamic-era fortress was constructed by the renowned Salah Al Din Al Ayuubi - who many would know as Saladin, the founder of the Ayyubid dynasty. It served as the seat of government in Egypt and the regal abode of its rulers for nearly seven centuries, from the 13th century to the 19th.

Perched atop a ridge of the Mokattam hills near the heart of Cairo, the Citadel boasts a commanding position, offering sweeping views of the city and reigning over its skyline. This historic site is a UNESCO World Heritage site and is home to the Mohamed Ali Mosque, the National Military Museum, and the Police Museum.For Egyptians, a visit to the Citadel is a rite of passage, probably during mandatory school trips, while for tourists, it represents an item on their bucket list. However, during this particular juncture, the Citadel takes on a new role as the host of 'If the Walls Could Talk' , a transformative contemporary arts exhibition curated by Culturvator and world-renowned cultural platform Art D'Egypte.

“This year we look to the future while honouring our past and staying rooted in the now,” Nadine Abdel Gaffar, Founder Culturvator and Art D’Egypte, tells CairoScene. “The Salah al-Din Citadel marks yet another UNESCO world heritage site that will, for the first time in history, come to life once more with contemporary art and design.”

Known for its ability to bridge the gap between Egypt's illustrious past and the frontiers of artistic experimentation, from the historic Al Muizz Street of Old Cairo to the Great Pyramids of Giza, Art D’Egypte embarks on its sixth consecutive year of reimagining age-old narratives. “One of our main goals through the exhibition is to create a space and a possibility of an arts and culture hub inside the Salah El Din Citadel,” Rasheed Kamel, Forever Is Now advisor and artistic director of the ‘Decorative Arts’ exhibition, adds.

‘If the Walls Could Talk’ is both a question and an answer. An exploration of the narratives etched into urban spaces, the moulds shaping our lives. What would the Citadel’s walls say if we breathed into them a spell; what did they witness through the centuries? ‘If the Walls Could Talk’ is the theme that unites all four exhibitions currently running at the Citadel, and the title of one of them, which is curated by crafts revival and development centre Markaz and Egyptian art historian Seif Rashidi, and explores these ideas with the greatest focus.

In a time of profound political, social, and cultural transformations in the Arab world, visual arts play a pivotal role. ‘Arab Dialogue’, a project curated by Saudi artist Mohamed Talaat Ali Othman, attempts to deepen this engagement. Featuring artists from across the Arab region,  the exhibit showcases contemporary paintings from diverse creative backgrounds. With Arab culture being the centre point in all its similarities and contradictions, the artworks carve out a space that unites us in those intertwined histories. Artists hailing from Algeria, Bahrain, Egypt, Iraq, Kuwait, Lebanon, Morocco, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Sudan, Syria, Tunisia, and the UAE come together to offer a multifaceted exploration of art in the Arab world.The third exhibit spotlights the mundane and overseen: the objects. ‘Atmosphere: Objects of Narrative’, curated by Saudi artist Ibrahim Romman, is a deep dive into the personal histories, cherished memories, and unique experiences tucked away in our homes, showing how these narratives have left an indelible mark on both individuals and the broader communities they're part of. It's an exploration of the objects that make our homes more than just spaces – they're living repositories of the human experience. Whether in a fork or a plate, as unlikely as it may sound, those objects become vessels and main characters in our lives.

In the fourth and last exhibit, ‘Exhibition of Decorative Arts’, some of Egypt's most dynamic design brands take centre stage. From the artistry of Okhtein and the philanthropy of Nadim Foundation to the creative visions of Rasha Pasha, Design Industry, Reform Studio, Kahhal, Kangaroo, Kilim, Don Tanani, and R'kan, this showcase is a testament to the rich tapestry of Egyptian creativity. It's an exploration of how artistry and utility intersect, offering a visual feast that underscores the fusion of aesthetics and function within Egypt's design scene.

The exhibition is scheduled to run from October 23rd to November 8th at Darb Al Dar within the Citadel. It will be open to visitors from 8:30 AM to 4:00 PM and will encompass four distinct galleries, each with its unique conceptual narratives.