Alexandria: Elsewhere–Struggles Across the Sea by Alia Mossallam

Sunday, 17. April 2016

April 17–23, 2016
Workshop at Wekalet Behna, 1 El Kenisa el Maruniyya Street, Manshiyya, Alexandria, Egypt
April 24–May 31, 2016
Public interventions at El Dokkan, El-Gaish Rd, and elsewhere on the streets of Alexandria, Egypt
All events are in Arabic. More information about the public events here (in Arabic)

The late 19th century saw a boom in the shipping industry and the digging of the Suez Canal in Egypt. The latter attracted workers from all over the world, and the former gave them the means to take to the sea. This was a period when borders were less rigid and passport regimes were not entirely in effect. Which meant that Italian anarchists and Syrian artists could flee political and religious persecution at home and come as stowaways on ships, to create new lives for themselves across the seas.


In Elsewhere–Struggles Across the Sea, Alia Mossallam examines historic Alexandria as a hub for peripheral imaginaries, where workers, activists and artists came together to articulate new world-views and organise against existing ones. And where theatres were buzzing with plays, which re-enacted revolutions from all over the world and invited audiences to participate in these productions, while cafes were filled with publications that mocked power and invoked new realms of ideological consideration.
Researching archives in Alexandria, Beirut and London, Mossallam has delved into songs, play scripts, publications, and personal artifacts from the period and in doing so traced a global, local movement that dreamt up an ‘elsewhere’ in Alexandria.


During the course of the workshop, Mossallam, Salam Yousri, theatre director, and Lena Merhej, graphic storyteller, along with young scholars, activists and artists in Alexandria will engage with the primary archival material Mossallam’s research has accrued thus far. In addition, the workshop will dig up stories and characters from court archives, songs from dusted off LPs, rumours, theatre scripts, publications and sites, which persist till the present in Alexandria.


The weeklong workshop will explore how these archives can be re-churned and their stories re-told. The subsequent public interventions will attempt to introduce these ideas, finding, reflections and retellings into the streets of Alexandria. The interventions will include an installation at El Dokkan, a hand-made publication and skits.


The workshop is in collaboration with Speak, History (Ihky ya Tarikh), an experiment in historical re-telling and Wekalet Behna, an art space embedded in a cinema archive and production company.
Elsewhere–Struggles Across the Sea is part of Draft, a yearlong project anchored in nine interdisciplinary collaboratives—Beijing, Cairo, Cape Town, Hamburg, Hong Kong, Mexico City, Mumbai, St. Petersburg and Zurich—which collectively consider how contemporary art can produce, provoke and contribute to critical public debates.

Cairo collaborative: Jasmina Metwaly and Philip Rizk, Alia Mossallam, Sarah Rifky and Jens Maier-Rothe