Egyptian artists explore the Sinai through art, photography and storytelling

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Egyptian artists explore the Sinai through art, photography and storytelling

The participants visited an abandoned hotel near La Commune for opportunities for interesting photos. This photo was taken by Fagr Ahmed, who asked fellow participants to place the flash below to get this large shadow. Photo credit: Mariam Ramic

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

Painting a feeling, creating a face from any shape and telling stories through images – these were just some of the topics covered in the five-day art retreat titled ‘Fananin El Madina F Sina’ (The Artists of the City in the Sinai) in Nuweiba, Sinai.

A plan created by contestant Abdalla Soltan for his graduation project, where he created a story about a gang called Jazz Gang who pretended to be musicians and then committed robberies – the characters and their names were based on people in the retreat and inside jokes of the participants made as a group. He wants his fellow participants to perform the story afterwards. Photo credit: Mariam Ramic

Organized by The Municipal Camp and Cocoon Cultural Center, the event brought together participants eager to flex their creative muscles through a concise 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 a while ago and have worked with them over the years and the fruits of our joint efforts have been delicious, so after Cocoon Culture Center was established in Cairo it only made sense that our two entities collaborated and organize artistic gatherings,” explains Layla Mazen, co-founder of La Commune Camp.

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

During the workshops, the participants took an exciting journey to learn everything from the composition techniques of painting and the methodology of taking creative photographs to learning the basics of illustration and sketching.

The choice of location in the beach town of Nuweiba helped inspire the city-bound artists in an environment where they could truly express their individuality.

Participant Abdullah Hadidy snaps a photo of details he noticed during the first photography exercise with Salma Olama. Photo credit: Mariam Ramic

“By being in such a primitive space with limited stimuli and distractions, people found space to cultivate a raw and genuine human interaction and exchange,” Rami explains.

Mazen agrees: “Sinai is a truly magical place where everyone’s creative juices flow, and we’ve seen the retreat teach attendees how to draw visual inspiration from the quirkiest and smallest details.”

Final project of participant Amina Khalil: a mixed media collage about empathy and grief. Photo credit: Mariam Ramic

After the workshops and fun evenings with creativity-stimulating games, each participant set to work on a final project that combined different elements from the different art forms they explored during the retreat.

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

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

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

Writer and artist Fagr Ahmed explains that they took part in the event because they aspired to be around a community of artists working across different media.

“At first I was a little intimidated because I didn’t have any formal art training and it’s still something I’m experimenting with. However, [the retreat] gave me a renewed sense of confidence in my unique and specific practice, which I wouldn’t necessarily have gained from a formal art education,” they explain.

Discussing color theory: mixing and complementing colors with acrylic paint. Photo credit: Mariam Ramic
Some of the pieces the participants created during the retreat. Photo credit: Mariam Ramic

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

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

Participant Wessam Wafik taking pictures at Wadi El Wishwash. Photo credit: Mariam Ramic

“We plan to partner with Cocoon [again] in the near future in various ways; either we will host them for artistic retreats or invite them to participate in our events,” says Mazen.

“We’ve already talked about audio boot camps, writing, and even photography and painting exhibitions.”

To stay informed about future events, follow the The municipality and Cocoon Cultural Center Instagram pages.

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