In 2015, I collaborated with Nadia Dropkin and Dina Abouelsoud, the founders and co-owners of Kafein, on expanding their very popular café to incorporate art-related projects. (Nadia and Dina also own the equally popular restaurant عيش + ملح Eish + Malh, both in Downtown Cairo.)
I created the concept for the hybrid space so that business-as-usual would continue, but also that the public would know that the space was officially used to host ambitious creative projects. K Project Space was thus conceived and designed so that Nadia and Dina themselves could select and then co-organize the projects, which they did until Kafein closed, for unrelated reasons. The logo of the project space is based on the café’s original logo and visual identity made by Valerie Arif. Artist Amy Arif organized the first exhibition and was involved in conceptualizing an earlier version of the project space.
In the fall of 2015, Nadia and Dina presented K Project Space at the Creative Cities: Re–Framing Downtown Cairo conference at the American University Cairo, organized by CLUSTER – the Cairo Lab for Urban Studies, Training and Environmental Research. The conference brought together “international examples of successful models of creative cities of relevance to the future development of Downtown Cairo and local stakeholders to consider the role culture can play as a catalyst for development.”
Excerpt from the conference’s official publication, that can be viewed in full here:
K Project Space is a new initiative situated in Downtown Cairo and shares its physical space with the café Kafein.
K Project Space develops a novel way of engaging with local artists and other practitioners by focussing on the work’s interaction with the everyday. K Project Space adapts itself accordingly to each new project and addresses the in-between, both in terms of physical space and disciplines.
K Project Space exhibits and hosts works made from interdisciplinary practices that involve art, as well as creating a bond between innovative projects that require support and a public that wishes to actively contribute to these undertakings.
K Project Space is currently welcoming proposals on a rolling basis. Kindly note that projects made in Egypt will be given preference.
All exhibitions and culture events at K Project Space were as follows:
The Visual Meal
Menna Genedy, Amal Salah, Amy Arif
Curated by Art On The Go
March 8–April 18, 2014
In The Visual Meal, three artists serve a visual meal made from a cultural fusion of imagery that engages Egyptian heritage, exposure to the West, and nouveau riche flamboyance. Old and vintage advertisements and articles from Egyptian magazines are rediscovered in Menna Genedy’s collage paintings. Amal Salah’s pieces combine mixed media to express her fascination with both classic and aspiring films. And Amy Arif examines the Gulf’s bourgeois aesthetics and obsession with showing off richness and wealth through her mono-prints.
Live laid back music night at Kafein
March 23, 2014
June 15–August 2, 2014
August 3–September 4, 2014
The Happy Family
October 26–December 5, 2014
Cairo Past Futures
Cairo Past Futures consists of twenty-four photographs, each combined with a headline extracted from the Egyptian press of the 1950s and 60s. Headlines like “This is tomorrow’s Cairo” and “Urban planning in the era of revolution” are superimposed on images of contemporary Cairo depicting scenes such as speculative informal housing properties on the edge of Giza and dilapidated social housing blocks in Bulaq. These two-layer montages combining text and image put to the test past promises about the city’s future pronounced in state-censored magazines and newspapers during the Gamal Abdel Nasser regime.
The postcard-like images of Cairo Past Futures present a double-edged critique: on the one hand the images critique the contemporary condition of Cairo through juxtaposition with the overly optimistic headlines from a previous era of revolution. On the other hand the images also question the heroic language of the press in all revolutionary times and its continued promotion of regime promises for a better urban future that rarely materializes.
by Jared McCormick
May 31–July 12, 2015
CairoCats is a show inspired by the felines of Cairo! Drawing from posts on the blog CairoCats, this show is a fundraiser for the Egyptian Society for Mercy to Animals (ESMA). The original work consists of cat crafts, a tote bag, and a postcard set of 10-cat themed historical views in Egypt. All proceeds will fund ESMA for the important work they do!
Vision / رؤيه
by Nouran Gamal
October 11–November 28, 2015
by Amanda KM
Opening: December 13, 2015
Filtered Conversations is an exhibition that explores the intersection of intimacy, conversation, and smoking. Over the past two years, Amanda KM has been inviting women to sit and chat with her over drinks, snacks, and cigarettes. Individuals converse about an open range of topics, some of which are generally considered taboo or stigmatized. ‘Filtered Conversations’ documents the vestigial recordings of conversation through documented objects such as fabric that serves as cigarette filters, video, and images.
Building an Alternative Film Archive
Curated by Cimatheque – Alternative Film Centre
Opening: March 8, 2016
> Interview with Cimatheque’s archivist Yasmin Dessouki for Cairo East Magazine.
Moving images have been an integral part of Egyptian culture for more than a century. Nevertheless, a physical space wherein the public can view and actively engage with alternative film history has been lacking. Beyond the well-trodden waters of popular works, there lies a plethora of cinematic material entirely neglected by public memory.
A key tenet in Cimatheque’s approach to the archive is understanding that the true measure of a society’s vitality lies in works created on its margins. Therefore, particular attention is paid to collecting, highlighting, and preserving material made outside the commercial mainstream. The pieces presented in this exhibit aim to initiate questioning regarding Cimatheque’s role as a space at this moment in time, and its aim in developing alternative approaches to archivingEgypt’s visual legacy.
5 years of Cairobserver at Kafein
May 8, 2016
The Otherness of Places: Analytical reflections and mappings on heterotopia in Cairo
GUC and Cairobserver
May 8, 2016
This exhibition features Spatial Aesthetics Pre-Master student works in Architecture and Urban Design at the German University in Cairo. Spatial Aesthetics, the Advanced Visual & Spatial Studies in the Urban and Environmental Context, is an urban research program combining architecture theory, philosophy and visual arts with varying topics and fields of investigation. Spatial Aesthetics deals with the complex issues of perception and production of space in both the urban and suburban context with the means of visual expression and artistic work.
Politics of Form, the subject matter in 2015/16, reflects on urban, socio-cultural and environmental issues, explores the meaning and relevance of form artistically and architecturally, and intends to raise the awareness for individual perception and public space. The area of research is mainly New Cairo in comparison with central Cairo.
The talk “Spatial aesthetics: Advanced visual and space studies in the urban and environmental context” is presented by Prof. Vlatka Seremet, with Christoph Muth, Rehab Ayman, Karim Ezzat from the German University in Cairo, Architecture and Urban Design Program.
Featured student works by: Yasmin Mardini (Parallel Barriers), Magdoline Melika (Urban Semiotics), Nourhan Adel (Cropped Fragments of Collective Memories), Shahd Afifi (Lines of Action), Eslam Ezz El-Deen (Storytelling Faces of Cairo), Aya Abdelkader (Direct Indirect) and artworks by Rehab Ayman (Abandonded).