Grants for Artists 2020

Ahmed El Gendy (Egypt, b. 1987) for the research phase of a choreographic work exploring humans and objects as “bodies of water,” and examining how bodies negotiate desires for togetherness, also while investigating notions of collective agency and interdependency. Through scores of limitations and specific durations, he will create a physical experiment that is a metaphor that is both micro-sociopolitical and eco-biological.

Assem Hendawi (Egypt, b. 1989) for the production of a multi-channel video installation about Bir Tawil, a no-man’s land along the Egyptian-Sudanese border that is uninhabited and unclaimed by either country. This area has become a catalyst for speculation on imaginaries and realities, in which new syntheses merge social science with fiction and collapse them onto the same desert space.

Christian Sleiman (Lebanon, b. 1994) for the publication of “A Brief Introduction to Salleq,” which traces the ritual of utilizing salleq (wild shrubs) that grow on a plot in Beirut’s downtown as a main source for food by a protester in Lebanon’s October 2019 uprising. The story presents multiple narratives that relate to the personal and political ecosystem by recording experiences and reflections of a botanist, an archeologist, and other locals.

Chrystèle Khodr (Lebanon, b. 1983) for the production of an interactive site-specific performance in a Beirut cemetery that investigates the circumstances that led to the abrupt bankruptcy of Intra Bank (the largest financial institution in Lebanon until 1966), and the death of its founder in unexplained, suspicious circumstances. Using different sources, the work aims to speculate about the reality of Lebanon’s current economic collapse.

Mayssa Kanaan (Lebanon, b. 1994) for developing a digital, nomadic library, which will hold an eclectic collection of found objects, images, and newspapers recovered from abandoned houses around Beirut or offered up by residents of old neighborhoods, as well as sidewalk recordings from the city. Together, these materials will be used to reconstruct the narratives and oral histories of the city’s social and cultural (unstitched) fabric.

Mohamad Abdouni (Lebanon, b. 1989) for the publication of a photographic-narrative book portraying Lebanese transwomen and their untold stories of living in Beirut. The work aims to contribute to the queer history of a city that has yet to consider the valuable influence of the local trans community in shaping its social and cultural tapestry.

Mohammad Shawky Hassan (Egypt, b. 1981) for the editing and sound design of the film essay Shall I Compare You to a Summer’s Day? The film is a contemporary queer take on One Thousand and One Nights, and offers narratives of non-normative love experiences using traditional modes of storytelling, including a language register deeply rooted in Arab popular culture.

Momtaza Mehri (Tunisia/United Kingdom, b. 1994) for the research phase of her experimental short film essay tracking the idea of the Black Gulf and investigating how being Black, or Blackened, in the Gulf shapes cultural production — specifically in music — as seen through the eyes of minorities and migrant communities.

Mounira Al Solh (Lebanon, b. 1978) for the development of the fourth edition co-edited with Nada Ghosn of NOA (Not Only Arabic magazine), a monthly and irregular periodical that can be read in unconventional ways (by appointment, or in secret locations, etc.). The issue will touch upon the significant and dominant role of women in the October 2019 uprising in Lebanon and its relationship to feminist movements in the Arab world.

Omnia Sabry (Egypt, b. 1993) for research on plants’ cognitive behaviour and plant chemistry in a chapter titled The Sacred Blue Lily, in preparation for her film Seas of the Pearly Lands: In Lights of an Apartment that is Thirteen Floors Underground. The research will be an in-depth investigation into one of the main characters, a botanist, researcher, and scientist fascinated with the nymphaea caerulea (Egyptian Lotus) plant growing along the Nile.

These projects were selected from over 400 applications from across the Arab world and beyond. The selection committee comprised Alia Ayman (film curator, project consultant, and co-founder of Zawya Cinema, Cairo/New York), Chaghig Arzoumanian (filmmaker and film editor, Paris/Beirut), Fatih Gençkal (performing artist, curator, and founding co-artistic director of A Corner of the World festival, İzmir), Marta Keil (performing arts curator and researcher, Warsaw) and Yasmine Elbaramawy (musician, sound designer, and composer, Cairo/Malmö). 

Abdessamad El Montassir (Morocco, b. 1989) for the production of an installation tracing narratives of Mauritanian citizens and Mauritanian descendants in Morocco, and the parallel and transformative cultural spaces they create. The project seeks to re-examine history and cartographies using oral material and visuals.

Badr El Hammami (Morocco/France, b. 1979) for the production of a photographic and audio installation investigating the notion of distance in relation to intimate oral narratives from both sides of the Mediterranean. For his project, El Hammami will look at “cassette tape letters” sent between Moroccans who migrated to France and Germany in the 1960s and 1970s and their families back home.

Fajr Soliman (Egypt, b. 1991) for the production of an album mixing Mahraganat music with synthesized electronics from Cairo’s soundscape exploring abstract yet familiar sounds.

Jana Al Obeidyine (Lebanon, b. 1979) for the publication of the third issue of A Dance Mag, dedicated to the timely theme of “touch.” A Dance Mag is an independent print magazine that looks at the world through the lens of dance. Its experimental, open-ended, and investigative approach works to disrupt the mono-cultural discourse around dance.

Karim Kattan (Palestine, b. 1989) for the writing of a novel which takes places across temporalities and generations in Kobe, Kyoto, and Bethlehem. The novel is inspired by magic realism and supernatural beliefs rooted in both Palestinian and Japanese cultures, and will highlight the little-known history of Palestinian migration to Japan.

Kinda Hassan (Lebanon, b. 1984) in collaboration with French composer Karine Dumont for the production of a sound installation translating the complexity of an environment into a soundscape via an acoustic experiment with non-anthropomorphic audio sources. The project reflects on sonic perception in relation to what an eye can capture and what it can’t, exploring the interconnections between the visible and hearable.

Layale Chaker (Lebanon, b. in 1990) for the production of a music piece composed for a chamber ensemble incorporating material from Edward Said’s piano and spoken recordings. It will highlight Said’s interest in music, and echo his cross-referencing of postcolonial theory and music.

Locale (Sudan, founded in 2016) for the publication of a book gathering reflections on the archiving of artistic, creative, urban, and social practices in Sudan. It will look at archives as a performative body that reacts and interacts with the transformations taking place in the Sudanese context.

Maissa Maatouk (Lebanon, b. 1992) for the production of a video essay on Beirut’s pigeon fanciers and their practice of pigeon racing. It will reflect on the sky as an expanded political space that hosts a strategic game with its own specific rules allowing people and birds to escape the power structures on the ground. The sky becomes a territory for performing a dance of resistance.

Mohamed Abdelkarim (Egypt, b. 1983) for the production of a video that overlaps Cairo’s urban landscape with post-apocalyptic fictional narratives, as a way to reflect on the current Egyptian context.

OPPA for Architecture and Research (Jordan, founded in 2019) for a research and publication about Ain Ghazal, an archaeological site in Amman which is subject to intricate historical and political stratification. The project creates an alternative narrative about this site in the form of a constructed spectacle, and attempts to dismantle the notion of landscape, looking at it as an “event” that is nonlinear and transformative.

These projects were selected from over 200 applications from across the Arab world and beyond. The selection committee comprised Aline Khoury (cultural manager and researcher, Jerusalem), Elfi Turpin (curator and director of CRAC Alsace, Altkirch), Eliane Raheb (filmmaker and founder of Beirut DC Cinema Association, Beirut), Prodromos Tsinikoris (theater director and dramaturg, Athens), and Rami Abadir (music producer and critic, Cairo/Berlin).