Meet the artists taking part in Sharjah's exciting new performing arts programme

Tarek Abou El Fetouh, Sharjah Art Foundation's first head of performance, has enlisted five artists for his inaugural roster

Nanda Mohamed performs in 'Every Brilliant Thing', a play by Ahmed Al Attar that is part of the inaugural season of Perform Sharjah. Photo: Ahmed Hayman
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Perform Sharjah has begun.

The Sharjah Art Foundation's inaugural performance season features works by five regional and international artists that vary from sonic installations to a hip-hop-inspired performance.

The programme, running until January 8, is organised less under a particular theme and more as an introduction to how the foundation understands "performance". The works all offer a different take on the idea of performance but together show it as something multidisciplinary, drawing from theatre, dance, music and other mediums. And they're as at home within the fabric of the city as they would be in the typical proscenium hall.

“The programme introduces the idea that things are happening in the streets and in the heritage houses,” says Tarek Abou El Fetouh, Sharjah Art Foundation’s recently appointed director of performance. “This is not a programme on the fringe or on the periphery.”

Performances have been strategically located in areas well known to the Sharjah community, such as Al Rolla Square, where American artist Joe Namy's sonic performance Automobile takes place. Cars fitted out with powerful sound systems and neon detailing broadcast the artist's composition of field recordings into the city.

Joe Namy's performance of 'Automobile' at Corniche, Abu Dhabi, in 2009. Photo: Radfan Alqirsh

Rimini Protokoll, the German collective that Abou El Fetouh regularly worked with for Abu Dhabi Art, are developing a version of Remote, which has now taken place across a variety of locations. The work transforms each city into a spontaneous performance, as an audio guide brings participants to see urban life as a vibrant theatrical stage.

For the first time, Remote will be voiced in Urdu and Malayam, as well as Arabic and English, reflecting the large Pakistani and Keralite population of Sharjah.

Abou El Fetouh is taking advantage of Sharjah's multicultural nature even in his Arabic-language programming. The play Every Brilliant Thing — which sold out so quickly the foundation added a second showing — is directed by the Egyptian playwright Ahmed El Attar and features Syrian performer Nanda Mohammad. Shesits alone on a stage, responding at times to the audience, in improvisations that make the work difficult to translate into English.

"Nanda is Syrian but she speaks Egyptian Arabic in the performance, and we are wondering what will happen if one of the audience speaks to her in Iraqi or Tunisian or Sudanese or Emirati," says Abou El Fetouh. "This is the first work we will perform in a place where you have all these dialects."

Rimini Protokoll's a version of 'Remote' hosted in Kyiv in 2020. Photo: Anastasiia Fateeva

Like Every Brilliant Thing, Belgian artist Miet Warlop’s After All Springville: Disasters and Amusement Parks takes place in the heritage houses around Bait Al Shamsi, which the foundation often uses for exhibitions, book fair and other events. The work dates from 2009 and is an important early piece in Warlop’s repertoire, blending comedy with drama to paint a portrait of a chaotic community.

Abou El Fetouh says he has deliberately sited the last of his programme, Brazilian choreographer Bruno Beltrao’s New Creation, in the Performing Arts Academy to also give audiences a taste of an artist who uses a more conventional mode of display.

“Beltrao comes from street dance and hip-hop, and he also studied philosophy and contemporary dance," says Abou El Fetouh. "The combination results in him being a master of stagecraft. His performance is extremely precise, with the beauty and the magic of the stage, while also drawing from the vocabulary of the streets."

Future Perform Sharjah events will be more substantial and for longer run. Many of the artists performing this year will create works for subsequent seasons, in a further example of the foundation's commitment to commissioning.

Perform Sharjah runs until January 8. Tickets can be booked at ticket.sharjahart.org.

Scroll through images of this year's Sharjah International Book Fair below

Updated: November 09, 2022, 9:12 AM
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