Wael Shawky questions Western assumptions about Islam and the Arab world. His work is concerned with history, politics and religion all brought into sharp focus by the recent upheavals in his native Egypt.
AlAqsa Park is a digital animation of the Dome of the Rock, the most recognisable monument in Jerusalem and a masterpiece of Islamic architecture. The Old City in Jerusalem is where Judaism, Christianity and Islam converge.
Built between 689 and 691 AD on the site of a Jewish temple destroyed by the Romans, the Dome of the Rock has been contested throughout history, right up to the present day. The rock platform on which it stands is believed by Jewish scholars to be the probable location of the Holy of Holies, the most propitious place for prayer. It is also on the place where Sunni Muslims believe Mohammed ascended to heaven. The Crusaders turned it into a Church, Israel hoisted its flag over it during the Six Day War in 1967, and the second Intifada was sparked when Ariel Sharon, then leader of the Israeli Likud Party, paid it a provocative visit in 2000. The Dome of the Rock is now a familiar graffiti image of Palestinian resistance to Israeli domination.
In Shawky's video the Dome rises and rotates like a fairground carousel an ironic nod towards the endless merrygoround of IsraeliPalestinian talks and conflicts, perhaps. It may also refer to Islamophobia in the West in wake of both 9/11 and the occupation of Iraq and Afghanistan by US and British forces.
Shawky's animation will be shown together with Huang Yong Ping's Construction Site, a work that also critically reflects on subliminal Islamophobia.
Cabaret Crusades: The Horror Show Files tells the story of the First Crusade of 1096 1099 from the perspectives of Arab historians. Made using an Italian collection of 200 year old puppets in the place of actors, it is a saga of bloody battles, betrayal and gruesome civilian massacre a genuine horror show, despite the beauty and artifice of the puppets and sets.
Telematch Sadat is more specifically Egyptian. The video is a restaging of the assassination of President Sadat in 1981. His death ushered in 29 years of dictatorship under Hosni Mubarak, who recently abdicated after mass popular protests. Soldiers and assassins are played by children, armoured vehicles replaced by donkeys and carts, and the desert substituted for the streets of Cairo.
In The Cave, Shawky himself appears walking the aisles of a European supermarket reciting long passages from the Qur'an that he memorised as a child. He seems oblivious to the consumer goods that surround him.
The teaching of Islam was first revealed to the Prophet Mohammed by God, after six months meditation in a cave in Mount Hira.
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