Liviana Martin

Urabi’s revolt

The Egyptian artist Wael Shawky, from drawing to sculpture to film to performance, reinterprets the cultural, religious and artistic characteristics of Middle Eastern history. His works make use of traditional Egyptian elements combined with contemporary Arab culture.
In the music video Drama 1882, which constitutes the central element of the pavilion, together with sculptures, paintings, installations, the artist stages the Egyptian nationalist revolt of the Egyptian colonel Urabi against the government of the Khedive (viceroy) subservient to the French and the British Empire. The scenes take place in slow-motion, with the protagonists identified historically but moving as if in a ballet, against the metaphysical background of moving paintings. It all begins with a fight that broke out between a strange character, the Maltese, and a donkey driver, before moving on to the revolt against the English, led by Colonel Urabi, supported by the people but then betrayed by his own allies. The revolt ends with the bombing of Alexandria and the occupation of the entire country by the British Empire.
The layout of the pavilion is very suggestive: we move in the dark, beams of light illuminated only the installations, while the colours of the giant screen immediately capture us.
The foreigners are the occupiers, who begin the drama of colonialism in the land of Egypt. Therefore, a work of social denunciation, which makes us reflect on the damage caused by the subjugation of entire populations to western interests, still persisting; a recurring theme this year in most of the exhibitions.