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‘Maspero’ Exhibition at Darb 17 18

Darb 17 18: ‘Maspero’

  • El Fustat - Old Cairo
  • Cultural Centers
  • Saturday-Wednesday:10AM-10PM, Thursday Off. Friday: 4PM-10PM
reviewed by
Heba El-Sherif
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Darb 17 18: ‘Maspero’

Egypt’s state TV building is no stranger to ridicule; for generations, its
giant plump cluster of offices has been associated with an ailing government
that gambles on partial media. 

During the eighteen
days that toppled former president Mubarak, protesters criticized the notorious
establishment, often right at its doorstep. And as the fight for free press continues across Egypt’s squares, artists
featured at Darb 17 18’s recent exhibit pay tribute to the last 50 years of forceful,
faulty state indoctrination.       

The first
piece, titled Man Made, explores the
notion of one’s outlook being obscured by an external force. Moataz Nasr Eldin juxtaposes an image of a young
man blinkered with an eye patch with an image of a horse looking straight and
steady, with its blinker tied around his eyes.
The message is clear; Egyptian state media, like a blinker, has long
tightened our visions, ensuring that we do not see the other side of any

Engy Ali’s Sanzaru portrays the absence of state
media from the childhood of many Egyptians.

‘I don’t remember what was usually on
Wednesday night, and I don’t remember who I watched Friday shows with,’ she
says about her digital collage that duplicates an image of three chimps that
can’t hear, see or smell. 

Set against
an abstract geometric background, the stifling of one’s senses is both powerful
and comic, perhaps due to the chronic ineptness embodied in Maspero’s catalogue
of broadcasts.

On the
adjacent wall stands Adham Bakry’s Blueprint,
a stark, sky-high mural stencilling the TV headquarters next to what looks like
a map of its interior, in way of inviting someone to hijack the building, put
an end to its unearned grandiose status and lift the shadow that it casted on
Egyptians for decades.

In a series
of sketches drawn on cardboard, Ali Abdel Mohsen, who is also the curator of
the show, toys with the common belief that Maspero has long been regarded as
the government’s mouthpiece, depicting both its anchors and the subjects
invited on air as large megaphones.

While Khaled
Hafez’s love-hate relationship with state media, capsulated in a video
installation, ends silently with him watching news on mute with his two
May El
Hossamy’s affair is one with a concrete end: a grave titled
Maspero 1960-2011. For both artists, the
lies propagated by the Egyptian media are falling on deaf ears, but the
question is when the rest of Egyptians will catch up.

360 Tip

Maspero and the street it overlooks were named after French archaeologist Gaston Maspero, who was the chairman of the Egyptian Antiquities Authority.

Best Bit

Some pieces will have you laughing out loud.

Worst Bit

The showroom is poorly ventilated, which may cut your visit short.

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