In March and April 2017 we were in Cairo and started a research into Arabic shadow theatre (khayal al zill), which used to be very prominent in Egpyt.
We came with a few threads in our hands and left with a whole bundle of threads.
First of all our our own thread: How can we bring the human performance into our art work? What can we learn in Egypt, where storytelling, carnivalesque parades (Maulids) and performative works in public like "Box of the World" used to be integral part of the cultural life?
Second it was our curiosity to follow the paths of Ibn Daniyal, a shadow theatre playwright from Mosul who escaped in the 13th century to Cairo when the Mongol invasions ravaged his homelands.
As an optometrist he worked with light and vision, when he arrived in Cairo he started to write poetry and shadow theatre pieces, which are up to this day very transgressive, explicit and challenging in terms of content. He was first crossing cultural boundaries and then he crossed disciplines.
The third was the intersection of Ibn Daniyals story of migration and transgression that was linked to some stories in our former works: The stories of friends, who had to leave home, the stories of human smugglers whom we encountered in various ways.
The fourth thread is that shadow theatre gave contours to a shared cultural space between the mediterranean countries on its southern, eastern and northern shores. A space that is now a buffer zone between Europe and the "others".
Fifth and maybe not as important but still our reality: the story of brute banality in western media, reducing people in certain regions outside of Europe to war mongering shadows.
To share our research with the Egyptian artists that we met was the closing event of our stay in Cairo. In a performative presentation we gathered and scetched out some of the stories we collected, using the shadow figures gifted to us by the artists and scholars.
A pice of donkey leather depicting a map with wrong borders? A moment from the performative presentation at the Goethe Institut Cairo, April 2017




















The enlarged projection of al-Ḥākim bi-Amr Allāh? A highly disputed caliph (around 1000 AD) reigning during the Fatimid period.




















A German scholar? Trying to squeeze the research about Khayal al Zill (shadow theatere in Arabic) into a coherent argument.

Are they there or not there? It could be one of the shadow figures locked up forever in a cabin of the National Puppet Theatre in Cairo?


Dismantling the performance screen. The audience could swap seats and either look at the projection or its production behind the cotton veil.

Below some images of the encounters with artists and their works in Cairo and Athens:

Two deceased "old school" shadow play masters from Cairo who worked with El Warsha theatre group in the 90ies, original foto taken by: Khaled Gouweily, 1995
























Ayman Hamdon, director of an urban design company in Cairo and passionate shadow theatre maker with one of his figures he gifted to us.

Receiving a workshop for creating a contemporary shadow puppet from artist Mohamed El Ekiaby in a Montessori School in Alexandria.
























The puppeteer Achmad Naiem invited his collegue Abdel Hamid Hosni into his studio"Mechanism Puppets" so that the latter could introduce to us his works, thoughts and experiments with shadow figures, a practice passed on from his father.

In Athens:


The painting depicts the British bombing of German occupied Piraeus in 1944. During this incident the shadow theatre located at a gas factory was destroyed. The theatre belonged to the father of the shadow theatre artist Haridimos, whom we met in his museum and studio in the Melina Mercourio culture centre in Athens.