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Walid Aouni revives Egypt’s modern artists at the Egyptian Arts Centennial

A young fine arts student is fascinated by the works of the great Egyptian modernist artists, and decides to bring them and their works back to life. This is the idea that choreographer and theater director Walid Aouni presents in his "Egyptian Arts Centennial" at the Cairo Opera House.

Like the protagonist of his show, Aouni is fascinated with modern Egyptian artists: "My only way to immortalize these iconic figures is to represent their works in my way. I feel that art can live without its creator, it continues to develop new meaning and relevance over time."

Focusing on the works of Nagui Shaker, Al-Hussein Fawzy, Gamal al-Seginy, Hamed Nada, Abdel Hady al-Gazar, and Mahmoud Mokhtar, the stage is overtaken by fantastical characters moving gracefully to early 20th century Egyptian music.

The Egyptian Arts Centennial aims to celebrate a century of modern Egyptian art. Aouni selected nine icons to represent the movement.

Lebanese, Aouni first became known in the eighties for his Taneet Group for Modern Dance in Belgium. A decade later, he moved to Egypt, where he founded the first dance theatre company in the Arab world at the Cairo Opera House.

Aouni has choreographed a number of shows inspired by the works of pioneer artists Gazebia Serry, Taheya Haleem and Mahmoud Saied, but many weren’t included in the current show because they weren’t Fine Arts School graduates, which ironically reflects some of the ongoing tensions in the local art scene.

Asked about his favorite artist, Auoni says he is fascinated by the fresh colors of Nada and the iconic “Green Madman” by Gazar.

"The best way to know art is to experience it. And dance is a very effective art form as it depends on the human body, one of the most expressive media," says Aouni. “In the Egyptian Arts Centennial, my idea was to release these trapped bodies from the canvas while also reflecting on the artists’ lives.”

Aouni worked on the show for about a year. A recent addition was the Egyptian flag in the background. "I made this change as a tribute to the revolution’s martyrs when I learnt that their families were invited to the ceremony,” said Aouni.

The Egyptian Centennial will be shown at the Sayed Darwish Theater in Alexandria on 27–28 June

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