City Shadows | Play the Cave

mahatat for contemporary art

Two projects which promote city occupation and the participation of local citizens in Egypt


The exclusivity of the art scene in Egypt marginalizes the majority of the population from being an art audience and centralization of the arts deprives amateurs and emerging artists outside the capital from exposure and skills development opportunities.

Our role is to take art beyond centralized channels and nurture creative expression and production of art as a visible and accessible part of our everyday life.

CITY SHADOWS: a toolkit on how to transform abandoned spaces through the arts. 
Villa Fernand on Abdel Salam Aref street stands amongst Port Said’s neglected cultural heritage. The building behind Villa Fernand was a colorful old building that is now in the process of demolition. An open and empty space behind these two structures stood idle and unused with the exception of hosting trash. This was the space chosen for the City Shadows event, part of a creative action research with the European Cultural Foundation (ECF) to explore the ways abandoned spaces in cities can be revived through art.

Rana El Nemr (Artistic Consultant),
Nadia Mounir (Visual Artist & Curator),
Nancy Mounir (Musician),
Omar Moustafa (Musician),
Nirvan Taha (Origami artist)

In a short time-frame, this discretly hidden space in Port Said was cleaned-up, revamped and transformed.

The exhibition revolved around Port Said’s popular culture, alternative history and how the citizens are entangled in their city’s heritage and history.

With the support of Artistic Consultant Rana El Nemr, curator and visual artist Nadia Mounier brought the space back to life through old and new photos, video installations and collectibles from Port Said.

Audiences were invited in and free to move around as they wish, slowly discovering items such as the paper crafts by artist Nervan Talha. Curators and musicians Nancy Mounir and Omar Mostafa flooded the space with experimental music tracks that faintly spread to the neighbouring streets.

"You made me regain faith that this city is beautiful."
An attendee from Port Said

For many of the over 300 Port Said residents that attended, it was their first time to hear that Villa Fernand even existed. As a lead up to the event, the group from Port Said Ala Adeemo designed walking and bike tours around the city to take people around significant cultural and historical places including those that have been abandoned.

This event was developed to support in the creation of a Do-it-Yourself toolkit on how to revive abandoned spaces and redirect their use towards artistic learning and expression, developed by Shaimaa Atef.

The research has been supported by the European Cultural Foundation and was initiated during the 2015 Idea Camp.

Check out the toolkit here.

An 11-day workshop was implemented with the children from Ezbet Khairallah, led by three artists working with up-cycling material. An art installation in public space with several up-cycled functional products, which was installed and later put on display in a public area in the neighbourhood. During the preparation phase, 15 young volunteers aged between 19-25 were chosen by the NGOs to receive an orientation session from Mahatat on cultural management, up-cycling, community art and art in public space so that they can continue long after the project ends. The workshops final products were an art installation, four benches, garbage bins, cartoon figures and an iron & wooden men all made from the upcycled material available in the neighborhood.

Hatem Mousa
Amir Abdelghany
Mohamed Hassan Darwish
Videographer: Omar Manjouneh.

"What are you doing is not going to fix it, what about art if there was no food, health or education? what would we gain? Teach us first, feed us first..."
A lady in her 50's, Ezbet Khair Allah

"Daughter, do you know how much this is a relief? we are humans, we don't like the fact of having all this piles of garbage, but we have no other way to get rid of it. Now you are a proof that we can help to clean our own area, we had several experiments with government but it takes too much time. I think we can all start from here now and never wait for impossible to happen.
A lady in her 60's, Ezbet Khair Allah

"Oh God, these are so nice drawings and colors. Can I participate!!"
A passerby child, Ezbet Khair Allah

"Thank you very much, you really care about learning. You know if you want to achieve a real change, please help these kids to take care of our streets too." - A man in his 50., Ezbet Khairallah

Credits: All media
The story featured may in some cases have been created by an independent third party and may not always represent the views of the institutions, listed below, who have supplied the content.
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