With March 8 having been International Women’s Day, women’s events dominated the first week of March's cultural calendar in the Middle East. The Cairo Women’s Film Festival, held March 3-9, showcased regional and international films produced by women. The festival, which launched in 2007, focused on Lebanon this year, screening six Lebanese films, including the award-winning “A Feeling Greater than Love,” directed by Beirut-based cineaste and geographer Mary Jirmanus Saba.
On March 8, in Bursa, Turkey, “Women, Dreams and Dragons,” an exhibition of women painters, opened, examining the social pressures and expectations placed on women. It continues through May 8 at the Nilufer Municipality Center. Meanwhile, Turkey’s Filmmor, a feminist film festival on wheels, kicked off in Istanbul on March 10 and will travel to eight cities in two months.
In Beirut, Dar El-Nimer for Arts and Culture organized Marche 8, an open market for crafts, embroidery and food produced by women participating individually and in conjunction with organizations. In the West Bank, the Palestinian Performing Arts Network, the Consulate General of Sweden and the Freedom Theater launched a joint cultural event on March 7 at the Nablus Municipality Center that included musical performances by the Edward Said National Conservatory of Music and the Darb Popular Dabke Troupe.
Among the other art events this month are the following.
A New Commission for an Old State: In “A New Commission for an Old State” at Cairo’s Gypsum Gallery, Mahmoud Khaled examines architecture within the political context of Egypt and the question of national identity. In this site-specific installation, Khaled focuses on three iconic artifacts — a gated summer resort, a text and a movie — all of which relate to Maamoura, a resort near Alexandria.
The first reference is to the gated resort itself, built by the state shortly after Gamal Abdel Nasser came to power in 1956. The second is “Maamoura's Victims,” a report written in 1955 by Hassan Jalal detailing the horrendous conditions and torture at a prisoner camp on the property of deposed King Farouk that later became the land on which Maamoura was built. Jalal’s text references the political layers of the exhibition, bridging different eras in the history of modern Egypt. The third reference is “A Man in My Life,” Youssef Chahine's 1961 remake of Douglas Sirk’s “Magnificent Obsession” from 1954. Chahine began production at Maamoura in 1959 a few months after the resort officially opened.
The result is a huge installation that combines glass, marble and mosaic tiles widely used in nationalist architectural projects in Egypt along with photos, texts, screenshots and video footage. A version of the installation was displayed at the Edith-Russ-Haus for Media Art in Oldenburg, Germany, in 2016.
The exhibition continues through April 18.
Perpetual Identities: Katya Traboulsi also takes a look at the issue of national identity, in the exhibition “Perpetual Identities” at the Saleh Barakat Gallery, in Beirut. This solo show features 46 hand-crafted replicas of bombshells adorned with colorful patterns, beads and sculpted forms. The iconography of each bombshell is associated with the national identity of a country, including Lebanon, Palestine and Turkey. Traboulsi is a Beirut-based multimedia artist and the author of “Generation War,” which traces the story of photojournalists who witnessed the Lebanese civil war during the 1980s.
The exhibition continues through April 24.
An opportunity for young artists: In Tehran, the Tehran Book Garden and the Art Center, a private gallery, are cooperating on “Artists of Tomorrow,” an exhibition showcasing works by promising young artists from across Iran. One artist will be selected by the Art Center to mount a solo show.
The exhibition runs until April 14.
Art-lovers in Tehran may also want to check out “Louvre in Tehran,” an exhibition at the National Museum of Iran, which is celebrating its 80th anniversary. The exhibition, the first time the Louvre has lent pieces to the museum, features 50 works of art, including a 2,400-year-old Egyptian sphinx, a bust of the Roman emperor Marcus Aurelius, Iranian artefacts and drawings by Western artists, including Rembrandt and Delacroix.
The exhibition opened March 5 and continues for four months.
XLove in Israel: In the last six months, two exhibitions— “Israeli Chutzpah,” at the Holon Institute of Technology, and “Chana Orloff: Feminist Sculpture in Israel,” at the Mane Katz Museum in Haifa — have displayed art criticizing the so-called ideals of female beauty. This month in Holon, The Farm Gallery mounted “XLove,” an exhibition of 32 works from photographers, illustrators and fashion designers who pay homage to the size X through paintings, graphics, video art and clothes. Something to keep in mind before beach season.
The exhibition runs through April 30.