Thursday,20 June, 2019
Current issue | Issue 1144, 18 - 24 April 2013
Thursday,20 June, 2019
Issue 1144, 18 - 24 April 2013

Ahram Weekly

The (not so) Naughty Nineties

Soha Heshamrevels in her recent past

Al-Ahram Weekly



The multi-media project My Nineties: A Panorama of Collective Memory Televised, has been on display on the first floor of the Townhouse Gallery and at the Rawabet Theatre space since 1 April. The project collects Egyptian television material from the whole decade, offering vibes of nostalgia to many generations who witnessed the era in their teens. It comprises four sections; live audio-visual musical performance done jointly by Mohamed Allam and Rami Abadir; a book, My Nineties, by Hassan Halwagi; a documentary by Emad Maher; and a video installation by Mohamed Allam.


According to artist Mohamed Allam, the creator of My Nineties, “The project started to allure me in 2009 as a personal interest when I started to watch the television material of this era, which we used to see when we were young. Later the idea developed and my personal interest went into the stage of research. The target was how to get this material, which proved very difficult when I went through the official channels -- like the library of the Egyptian television. So I began to search for material with my friends. When I decided to start the project, I started buying VHS tapes from the Friday market, which sells old stuff; those tapes were recorded by everyday people and they got rid of them. I bought 4,000 VHS tapes and I started to choose among them, excluding tapes which were stored in bad condition that ruined the material, till I settled on 200 tapes which were valid for screenings.”


On the first floor of the Townhouse, the viewer finds a unique display with obsolete television and video devices. The setting immediately places the viewer in this era, examining their memory and inviting them to identify video clips of that time like songs by Assi Al-Hillani and Hisham Abbas playing on TV screens. Another television plays the famous Ramadan TV series Layali Al-Hilmya (Hilmya Nights), a television interview with toppled president Hosni Mubarak by TV presenter Mufid Fawzi, the Ramadan contest series or Fawazir starring Nelly, which were directed by Gamal Abdel-Hamid. All the material is recorded from state TV channels 1 and 2. According to Allam, television as the only multimedia device and the sole source of culture for this generation.


As he gradually became interested in the project, he looked for funding and finally managed to receive support from the Arab Fund for Arts and Culture (AFAC) and the Youth Arab Theatre Fund (YATF), which helped him to request cooperation from other artists to bring more products to the project beside the mulitmedia show and to buy the required devices. Journalist Hassan Halwagi, for example, compiled a book "with the same idea of the VHS tapes or the archive concept enclosing significant documentation for this decade extracted from articles from newspapers, books and magazines, research and other sources". It was designed by Adham Bakri.


One major product was the documentary film. According to Allam it is based on interviews with and on the television icons of that era such as television director Mohamed Fadel, the director of the Hakawi Al-Ahawi (The Tales of Cafes) show Omar Anwar (one of the most popular TV programmes, presented by Samia Al-Etreibi), cameraman Ibrahim Al-Masri and actor Khaled Abul-Naga who used to work in TV commercials before he started his career as an actor. Yet a seconf important source for the film was the televised material extracted from collected VHS tapes.


Another product is the audiovisual live performance. "I began to work on the idea of a musical performance mixed with live video screening jointly with musician Rami Abadir," Allam explains, "who started to realise that vision using all the analogue techniques of the era. I began to mix the musical performance with the televised material.” The performance offers rich footage of video clips, news, TV shows, scenes from football matches, Mubarak’s speeches accompanied by songs of the 1990s that were attentively chosen by Abadir. It presumably left the audience with a smile and hundreds of comments reviving their memory of the time: the blond TV presenters of Egyptian television, for example. Allam insisted on using only analogue technology that was available in the 1990s.


Nowadays with all the new satellite channels and social networks, YouTube and other fora, the collective memory of the next generation is entirely different and wider than that of the generation that witnessed the 1990s -- and this is one thing the project truly brings home.












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