Al Araba El Madfuna I, 2012
In Wael Shawky’s film, a group of children restage the story of a local shaman in Al Araba Al Madfuna in Upper Egypt that tells the anecdote of a man entering the assembly room of the borough of Al Araba Al Madfuna, carrying a lantern and revealing a secret that is to be found under the carpet in the center of the room. In the film, the children surround the carpet and act out the story, though their speech is dubbed by adult voices.
Al Araba Al Madfuna is about the reorganization processes of social and political systems, which can be observed in the Arab world for decades. Through re-enactments of historical events with children Shawky makes cultural hybridization of narrative and aesthetic strategy. With the means content and formal displacement he creates a transitional space between documentary and fiction. A wealth of references to literary and historical sources as well as the deliberate use of music let us reconsider the past and present.
In this piece, history, memory and myth collide and placed in a binary relationship in which memory can be seen as a less legitimate means of establishing the past, or conversely, history can be seen, as the destroyer of a more authentic, existentially rich, living memory.