Art photography

Egyptian artists explore Sinai through art, photography and storytelling

Egyptian artists explore Sinai through art, photography and storytelling

Participants visited an abandoned hotel near La Commune for interesting photo opportunities. This photo was taken by Fagr Ahmed, who asked the other participants to put the flash below to get this large shadow. Photo credit: Mariam Shaath

“We wanted people to experience Sinai in a different way; to experience, observe and dissect it, ”explains Mariam Shaath, co-founder and creative director of the Cocoon Cultural Center.

Painting a feeling, creating a face from a random shape and telling stories through imagery – these are just some of the topics covered during the five-day art retreat titled “Fananin El Madina F Sina” (city artists in Sinai) in Nuweiba, Sinai.

A shot created by participant Abdalla Soltan for his final project, where he created a story about a gang called the Jazz Gang who pretend to be musicians and then shoot robberies – the characters and their names were based on people in the retreat and inside jokes the participants had created as a group. He wants his fellow participants to interpret the story once it’s over. Photo credit: Mariam Shaath

Organized by La Commune Camp and Cocoon Cultural Center, the event brought together participants eager to get creative through a condensed series of workshops with the help of three instructors: photographer Salma Olama, artist Dina Jereidini and artist Kareem Soltan.

“We met the beautiful people of Cocoon some time ago and have worked with them over the years and the fruit of our joint efforts has been delightful, so after the founding of the Cocoon Culture Center in Cairo, it made sense that our two entities collaborate and organize artistic meetings ”, explains Layla Mazen, co-founder of La Commune Camp.

Group photo on the last day of the retreat. Photo credit: Mariam Shaath
Characters created by Tamara Mobarek. Photo credit: Mariam Shaath

During the workshops, participants went through an exciting journey of learning everything from painting composition techniques and creative photo-taking methodology to learning the basics of illustration and sketching.

The choice of location in the seaside town of Nuweiba helped inspire the town’s artists into an environment where they could truly express their individuality.

Participant Abdullah Hadidy taking a photo of the details that caught his eye during the first photography exercise with Salma Olama. Photo credit: Mariam Shaath

“Being in such a primitive space with limited stimuli and distractions has helped people find room to cultivate raw, real human interaction and exchange,” says Shaath.

Mazen agrees: “Sinai is a truly magical place that allows everyone to let their creativity run free, and we saw the retreat teach participants how to visually draw inspiration from the most unusual and the tiniest details.

Final project by participant Amina Khalil: a multimedia collage on empathy and grief. Photo credit: Mariam Shaath

After the workshops, as well as fun evenings of games that stimulate creativity, each participant was able to work on a final project combining different elements of the different art forms they explored during the retreat.

“We wanted to bring these different mediums together to show that you don’t have to conform to a specific medium to call yourself an artist,” Shaath explains.

A piece titled “Mornings, Mountains & Mindsets” by participant Wessam Wafik, who experimented with double exposure.

The event was open to anyone interested in the creative arts, which helped attract young emerging artists who may be hesitant to participate in an artistic retreat.

Writer and artist Fagr Ahmed explains that they joined the event because they strived to be around a community of artists working with different mediums.

“I was a little intimidated at first because I don’t have any formal art training and it’s still something I’m experimenting with. However, [the retreat] gave me back confidence in my unique and specific practice, which I would not necessarily have acquired from a formal art education ”, they explain.

Discuss color theory: mixing and supplementing colors with acrylic paint. Photo credit: Mariam Shaath
Some pieces created by the participants during the retreat. Photo credit: Mariam Shaath

Shaath agrees, noting that it is normal for artists to be shy at first as it is a “vulnerable practice”, but rejoices that participants have managed to express their individuality and “develop as thinkers.” conceptual, creative practitioners and collaborators ”.

“Fananin El Madina F Sina” was the first artistic retreat organized in collaboration between La Commune and Cocoon, and the organizers plan to host similar events in the future.

Participant Wessam Wafik taking photos at Wadi El Wishwash. Photo credit: Mariam Shaath

“We plan to collaborate with Cocoon [again] in the near future in several ways; either we will welcome them for artistic retreats, or we will invite them to participate in our events, ”explains Mazen.

“We’ve already discussed audio boot camps, writing, and even photography and painting exhibits.”

To stay informed of future events, follow the Instagram pages of La Commune and the Cocoon Cultural Center.

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