Egypt's stocks close in red on Monday as benchmark EGX 30 dips 0.07%    Egypt's stocks start week higher, benchmark EGX 30 gains 0.48%    Fitch affirms Egypt's long-term foreign currency issuer default rating at B+    The unvaccinated prohibited from entry to Egypt state institutions starting December 1    Russia to lift COVID restrictions on flights to Egypt's Red Sea resorts on Nov. 9    Egypt, Greece ink deal for first subsea power link between Europe and Africa    Egypt hosts regional conference of EU refugee agency EASO    SCOHRE sparks discussion on harm reduction, tobacco control    Egypt to receive first of six high-trains from Spain's Talgo in mid-November    Egypt's iron and steel exports jump 197% in 8 months    Ethiopia halts work at its embassy in Egypt for 'economic reasons'    It's a bit frustrating to draw at home: Real Madrid keeper after Villarreal game    Russia says it's in sync with US, China, Pakistan on Taliban    Shoukry reviews with Guterres Egypt's efforts to achieve SDGs, promote human rights    Sudan says countries must cooperate on vaccines    Over 100 officials resign from Tunisia's main Islamist party    Johnson & Johnson: Second shot boosts antibodies and protection against COVID-19    Egypt to tax bloggers, YouTubers    Egyptian court bans use of mosques for political purposes    Brazil calls up 8 EPL players for World Cup qualifying    Refugees in fear as sentiment turns against them in Turkey    We mustn't lose touch: Muller after Bayern win in Bundesliga    Egypt records 36 new deaths from Covid-19, highest since mid June    Egypt sells $3 bln US-dollar dominated eurobonds    Sisi calls on House, Senate to commence second legislative sessions on 3, 5 October    Huawei Technologies has invested $10 mln over 5 years in innovation centres in Egypt    Gamal Hanafy's ceramic exhibition at Gezira Arts Centre is a must go    Italian Institute Director Davide Scalmani presents activities of the Cairo Institute for ITALIANA.IT platform    Qa'a play showing at Lycee El Horreya Theatre, Alexandria is a must go    Orange Egypt Introduces Amazon Prime Video    Tokyo Olympics: Cautious opening ceremony, shy start for Egyptians in competitions    Mallawi Museum in Upper Egypt holds recycling workshop for children during Eid Al-Adha    Egypt keen on stable tax policies to attract more investors: Finance Minister    Sudan declares state of emergency as water goes beyond Merowe Dam capacity    Niagara Falls illuminated in Egyptian flag to mark 23 July Revolution anniversary    Capital flows into EM keep recovering after March 2020 slump: Central Bank of Egypt    1 child orphaned every 12 seconds due to COVID-19-associated death: World Bank    Egypt, Japanese Olympic Committee discuss boosting sports cooperation    US emphasises AU's role in mediating Ethiopian damdispute    Ethiopia ready to resume dam talks with no legally binding agreements: Ethiopian official    Sunken city of Thônis-Heracleion in Egypt's Abu Qir bay yields new archaeological treasures    New films, concerts, and destinations for Eid Al-Adha holidays    Egypt, Oman discuss enhancing bilateral economic, investment relations    Al Ahly v Kaizer Chiefs: Cairo giants eye 10th CAF Champions League title    Tunisia hopes to have a UN role in resolving Egypt-Ethiopia dam dispute    APO Group enters new exclusive agreement with Getty Images on African press releases and images    On International Museum Day, Egypt opens two new museums at Cairo Airport    Old Cairo's Al-Fustat will be revamped on Egyptian President's directives    

Thank you for reporting!
This image will be automatically disabled when it gets reported by several people.

King or Aragoz
Published in Al-Ahram Weekly on 25 - 12 - 2008

Nashwa Abdel-Tawab invites young and old to watch a shadow puppet theatre performance
Tomorrow will see a free shadow play at the Beit Al-Seheimi Court in Al-Gammaliya in the heart of Islamic Cairo. The play, King or Aragoz will start at 7pm, and the venue can be found by going to the Al-Fetouh Gate and asking for the old Islamic house. The one-hour-and-half performance of shadow theatre, or Khayal Al-Dhill, and a regular puppet show using hand- held puppets, Al-Aragoz, will take us through three linked stories that can be enjoyed by an audience aged from four to 74. More than 350 people a week, mostly children, flock to watch the performances. As the shadows on the white screen in front of the audience take the shapes of humans and animals acting out traditional stories, their delight is intensified by the entrancing folk tales that accompany them.
Tomorrow's play starts with a king who is feeling bored. The Aragoz, wearing his long-coned hat, advises him to take up something different, such as acting. Pleased with the adventure, the king embodies the famous legendary character of Shahrayar of the Arabian Nights, who would kill a wife every day until outwitted by Sheherazade, his last wife, who managed to escape the penalty by telling him bedtime stories. Since Shahrayar fell asleep before the end of the story each night, he spared her so she could finish it and she would immediately begin another. There is a surprising twist to the traditional story. Instead of being the king who issues the orders, Shahrayar finds himself taking orders from the cock that announces the dawn.
Amusing as the storyline might be for children, it is quite alarming for adults to find the cockerel playing a positive role in events, while the people, who formed the community ruled by the king have no voice of their own. It can be seen as a reflection of the stagnant social and political attitudes that throughout history have infiltrated into daily life.
The aragoz easily convinces the king to act again. This time he embodies the role of the folk character Goha, and then the king from the tale by Hans Christian Anderson where no one can see his clothes.
The show is clever and entertaining, and no one will regret using it as an excuse for a family outing, especially in such a historical venue. It is a traditional show with a hidden message. And do not be afraid to comment out loud: aragoz encourages interaction, and who knows, you might even change the plot.
The fact that shadow plays attract both children and their parents alike is a sign of their success, and it is this that has particularly struck the author, Nabil Bahgat, who sees this kind of art as a way of combating the "cultural invasion" of commercial cultural products from abroad, promoting shallow, selfish values.
"People are thirsty for this type of art because it reflects their heritage, and they share the same background," Bahgat says. "This genre enhances the imagination, and if we abandon it, then the whole nation will fall behind and be left in the hands of a generation in search of instant entertainment and instant pleasure."
Shadow puppet theatre is one of the oldest forms of folk art in the world, and in the Egyptian version the puppets are traditionally made of animal skin decorated with patterns and motifs borrowed from Islamic art. Shadows of their movements are cast onto a translucent screen in order to tell folk tales and traditional stories.
The show is both written and directed by Bahgat, a professor of Arabic theatre at Helwan University and the founder of Wamdah (Beam of Light) company. Bahgat has played an important part in the contemporary revival of shadow puppet theatre. Wamdah started out by presenting shadow plays on the streets of Cairo before moving to Al-Azhar Park, then to the Geneina Theatre. The company has now performed more than 1,000 outdoor shows in Egypt and 140 shows in Tunisia, France, Morocco, Jordan, and the United States. It has also conducted dozens of workshops and produced nine documentary films on shadow puppet theatre.
Few original play-scripts for the shadow puppet plays survive, but among those that do are scripts by Ibn Daniel, who fled Iraq during the 13th century Mongol invasions and wrote at least three major shadow puppet plays.
Today, Wamdah aims to perform shadow puppet plays for new audiences, preserving the material and finding room for young talents to flourish in this ancient art form.
Beyond entertainment, Aragoz and Khayal Al-Dhill tackle socially pertinent issues by connecting historic events with the current affairs gripping the nation. "We create a 'bridge' between heritage and current reality through issues of concern to the people," Bahgat says.
In another show, Ali Al-Zeibaa, even the idea of the form's resistance to contemporary mass culture is highlighted, with Al-Zeibaa resisting foreign invasion through his wits and his mastery of the art of disguise, where he manages to avenge his father's murder, outwit his rival Sonour Al-Kalbi, and preserve the state as he does so. Bahgat performed this play in the US after the invasion of Iraq in front of an audience of 40,000 Americans.
The show Aragoz Dot Com is another example that deals with the topic of lying and deception -- both past and present. Bahgat has the Hyksos attack Egypt on the pretext that the noise of their animals annoys them in Al-Sham (the Levant). A parallel is subtly drawn to President Bush, who attacked Iraq on the pretext that it owned weapons of mass destruction.
The Beit Al-Seheimi also presented Arayesna ( Our Dolls ), which delves into the inner conflict between attachment to the homeland and the desire to "belong to the other". "Look at the Ninja productions," Bahgat says. "They are always followed by pizza promotions. This creates a non-productive person; whenever he feels hungry he orders junk food by phone." Bahgat also emphasises that multinational companies impose cultural norms to influence consumerism patterns.
" Arayesna furthermore unveils the danger of the Western doll, whose features do not relate to our reality," Bahgat says, noting that this performance ultimately serves to acquaint children with "pure" Arab models that express some of "our own features and values".
"I have achieved something people are talking about," Bahgat says. "If everyone has a successful project rooted in our civilisation, we will enrich the world." Bahgat has a message of passion for art, history, Islamic civilisation and for his fellow countrymen who suffer in the same way he does.
What the shadow plays have that other, more modern forms do not have are spontaneity and the possibility of real interaction with the audience. So don't miss the experience.

Clic here to read the story from its source.