Long-term collaboration projects have been one of the main pillars of Pro Helvetia Cairo’s work since 2013, bringing together artists and cultural practitioners from Switzerland and Egypt and providing them with the conditions that facilitate the creation and exchange of their work.
One such project was Cactus Flower, which saw Swiss choreographer Nicole Seiler collaborate with Egyptian film director and visual artist Hala Elkoussy through a series of workshops with up and coming Egyptian dancers leading up to a performance and ultimately a film by Elkoussy.
The project began in September 2015 with a two-week intensive workshop with 20 young Egyptian participants. Exploring artistic expressions in relation to the political climate of Egypt at the time through choreography, video performances and live performances. The workshop aimed to translate the stories of marginalisation reflecting the collective pressures exercised on an individual into physical and vocal expressions that transcend the specifics of the situation to present a more universal artistic statement against marginalisation and oppression. The outcome of the workshop was a conceptual dance piece that was performed in Alexandria.
The second part of the collaboration between the two artists was another workshop followed up by performances in Cairo and Alexandria in October 2016.
In the choreography of Cactus Flower, the succession of gestures follows its own organic logic: each repeated movement transforms gradually and imperceptibly into another. In this continuous transformation, the group, even though composed of a number of individuals, is required to function as one body. The tension between the individual and the group questions our interactions and relationships. How do we communicate? How can we be ourselves and part of a group at the same time? How do we handle rules and authority and collective pressure?
The performances were very well attended and received in the media, such as in this review in Mada Masr.