As Egypt gears up to host Cop27, a small piece of the desert in Alamein, a resort town near the Mediterranean sea, has been chosen as the venue for a newly launched modern art exhibition by seven of the country’s most well-known artists.
The Alamein Art Festival was launched by Art D’Egypte — a private firm known for organising high-profile art events in the country — after it was approached by by the Industrial Development Group (IDG), a state-owned entity created to drum up foreign investment in Egypt’s industrial sector.
The festival follows a month-long symposium in Alamein earlier this year, during which the seven artists met and experimented with various kinds of scrap materials, all provided by factories that offered waste materials of various kinds.
Held at IDG’s newest industrial park, E2, the festival’s collection consisted exclusively of massive installations made with plastic, as well as different kinds of metal and wood.
“Part of our objective was first to upcycle the waste materials provided into a giant installation,” Marwa Magdy, a contributing artist, tells The National. “The second part was to create something that would go with the feel of the industrial park we were presenting in and the feel of Alamein in general.”
Magdy’s contribution, a jagged and futuristic interpretation of a jellyfish in different tones of green, yellow and blue, is one of the most eye-catching pieces. Her work is often inspired by animals, she says.
One of the most exciting aspects of the symposium for the artists involved was the opportunity to play around with materials they hadn’t used before, says prominent modernarian Omar Tousson, 50, who contributed two monolithic installations made with black plastic, shaped and woven intricately.
“We were all really pleased to find a chance to try out something new and play around a little,” he says.
While they were not a part of formulating the festival’s original concept, a process left to IDG and Art D’Egypte, the artists did tweak the exhibit here and there.
“The original agreement was not for such massive installations, but when we got here and saw the terrain and scale of the industrial park, we felt the works had to be huge,” Tousson says.
The National also spoke with Art D’Egypte founder Nadine Abdel Ghaffar, who said that her company had been trying to promote more installation art in Egypt for some time, but had been impeded by a deficiency of materials.
“We were approached by IDG who wanted to do an art project with us. In preparation, we decided to hold a symposium where we would send the participating artists to the factories who had agreed to work with the event to see what kind of materials were not being used there and whether it was feasible to upcycle them into installations,” Abdel Ghaffar says.
Some of the materials that ended up being used in the installations, she reveals, were picked up by the artists on their way to see the space. These included a billboard frame left by the side of the road.
Abdel Ghaffar says the event is particularly important for Egypt right now, as the country is preparing to host the coming 27th United Nations’ Conference of Parties (Cop), set to take place in the Red Sea city of Sharm El Sheikh in November.
“It seemed particularly apt to have this event now with Cop27 right around the corner. What many people don’t realise is that artists have a huge role to play in the global fight against climate change,” Abdel Ghaffar says.
The Alamein Art Festival is open for visitors free of charge and runs until the end of August.