Cabaret Crusades III : The Secrets of Karbalaa
This is the final instalment of the trilogy, which covers the Second (1145- 49), Third (1189-92) and Fourth Crusades, with the final scene closing with the destruction of Constantinople by Venetian Crusaders in 1204.
The film features the legendary figures from the historical conflict : Saladin, Nur al-Din Zengi, Richard the Lionheart and Frederick Barbarossa.
The Battle of Karbalaa in 680 took place in the town of Karbalaa, Southern Baghdad, where the decisive
battle over the legacy of the Prophet Muhammed took place, which led to the schism between Sunni and Shi’a Muslims that still exists today.
Shawky created the marionettes from Murano glass, some taking the form of animals, others disfigured – all showing the grotesque brutality of war. The use of Murano glass emphasises the fragile and delicate nature of the religious and political sparring of the Crusades, but it also cleverly intertwines the European and Arabian narratives, fusing East and West.
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Wael Shawky (Alexandria)
Based on extensive periods of research and enquiry, Wael Shawky’s work tackles notions of national, religious and artistic identity through film, performance and storytelling. Whether instructing Bedouin children to act out the construction of an airport runway in the desert or organizing a heavy metal concert in a remote Egyptian village, Shawky frames contemporary culture through the lens of historical tradition and vice versa. Mixing truth and fiction, childlike wonder and spiritual doctrine, Shawky has staged epic recreations of the medieval clashes between Muslims and Christians in his trilogy of puppet animations – titled Cabaret Crusades: The Horror Show Files (2010), The Path to Cairo (2012) and The Secrets of Karbalaa (2015) – while his three-part film, Al Araba Al Madfuna, uses child actors to recount poetic myths, paying homage, rather than mere lip-service, to the important narratives of yesteryear.
Wael Shawky was born in Alexandria, Egypt in 1971 where he lives and works. Recent solo exhibitions include Kunsthaus Bregenz, Austria (2016); Fondazione Merz, Zurich, Switzerland (2016); MATHAF, Doha, Qatar (2015); MoMA P.S.1, New York, USA (2015); K20 Düsseldorf, Germany (2014-15); Serpentine Galleries, London, UK (2013-14); KW Contemporary Art Institute, Berlin, Germany (2012); Nottingham Contemporary, UK (2011); Walker Art Center, Minneapolis, USA (2011); etc.
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