Egyptian video artist wins award at African photography festival

Khaled Hafez won an award at the African photography biennial in Mali, for his piece which examines modern Cairo through the eyes of Anubis

Published on Wednesday 2 Nov 2011 in Ahram Online

During the 2011 Bamako Encounters, Khaled Hafez, an Egyptian video artist, was given an award for his short video entitled “a77a Project” (or Aha Project – ‘Aha’ being an Egyptian profanity used to express frustration). The award, provided by the Fondation Blachère, a French corporate foundation aiming to promote art in Africa, represents two weeks residency in Apt, France, in July 2012. In addition to the residency, Hafez will exhibit his work at a group exhibition in Arles during July 2012, the city’s photography month. The award also comes with a prize of 1,500 euros.

Hafez’s project is the only video work which won an award during the Bamako Encounters African Photography Biennial, which is held every second year, and invites all African countries to participate. This year, over 45 photographers and ten video artists presented a total of over 280 works during the Biennial. Video artists include Bakary Diallo from Mali, Dimitri Fagbohoun from Benin, Em’Kal Eyongakpa from Cameroon, Katia Kameli from Algeria, Brent Meistre from South Africa, Grace Ndiritu from Kenya, Rina Ralay-Ranaivo from Madagascar along with three artists from Egypt: Khaled Hafez, Ahmed Sabry and Amal Kenawy.

It was the initiative of Michket Krifa, artistic co-director of the Ninth Biennial, to include Hafez’s short video in the Encounters. In parallel, Krifa curated an Arab Spring project consisting of photography and videos by Egyptian and Tunisian artists. For the Egyptian part of Arab Spring, Hafez also headed a group of 13 Egyptian artists and directed a short video “Field Statement” including their works. “Field Statement” was produced by Coralie Desmurs, art historian and cultural officer at the French Institute in Cairo.

The winning video, A77a Project, is being screened in the main hall of the National Museum of Mali until 1 January 2012. The project mixes fiction with reality while touching on the biennial’s theme, the sustainable world.

Realised in 2009, the video raises political concerns related to the creator’s country, Egypt. The main protagonist, presented as Anubis, walks through the changing political and social realities in Egypt, within the haphazard architecture of Cairo.

“In many of my works, Anubis becomes the protagonist and allows me to break the barrier between East and West, past and present, sacred and ephemeron,” Hafez told Ahram Online. “I also find Anubis and Batman to be identical: they have the same ears, the same naked torso; both are well-muscled and both have the same function, which is protection against evil.”

Hafez’s Anubis is resuscitated from the Ancient Egyptian world of dead and enters modern Cairo, moving rhythmically to the music. He witnesses poverty, demonstrations, fake elections, riots and anti-riots action.

The video, created in 2009, was a part of Hafez’s graduation project for his Masters of Fine Arts (MFA) degree at Transart Institute, accredited by Donau University Krems, Austria, where the artist spent two years.

“For my graduation, I wanted to do something that would touch the local specificity from where I come from, and at the same time would be accessible and appreciated by a diversity of audiences in Eastern and Western cultures. In order to reach that, I had to insert in the movie a selection of global concerns and issues and yet not lose focus in regards to the unified narrative,” Hafez commented.

“I scripted the movie and collected most of the material for it, and even though it is completely my vision, I cooperated with younger peers, those born in digital era. With their valuable skills added, I consider it to be a group effort. In the video, Ahmed Shaer, who is 28 years old, helped a lot, while Ahmed Saleh, who was 24 years old at the time the video was created, worked in music,” Hafez concluded.

In 2010, Hafez’s video was shortlisted for a digital award at the University of Extremadura in Spain. The work was also shown at the 17th Annual New York African Film Festival at the New Museum in the USA, which took place in 2009.

Moreover, the project has been selected for the 15th International Short Film Festival in Winterthur, Switzerland, and will be presented at the IFA gallery during the Arab Film Festival, Berlin, this month.

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