Wael Shawky (Alexandria, Egypt, 1971) studied Fine Arts at the Universities of Alexandria and Pennsylvania (United States). Creator and founder/director of MASS Alexandria, the first independent study programme for young artists in this city, today he is one of the most prominent contemporary African artists. Shawky, who lives and works in Alexandria, focuses his work on the notions of identity, religion and the collective. Through films, installations and performances that blur the boundaries between reality and fiction, Shawky explores history, culture and the effect of globalisation in contemporary societies. Whether working with child actors or puppets, organising a heavy metal concert in a remote Egyptian village or simulating televised shows, Shawky approaches contemporary culture through the lens of historical tradition and vice versa. With a simple yet powerful language, his reviews of poetic myths and epic tales of medieval battles between Christians and Muslims fruitfully invert the usual discourse of historiography. His famous trilogy with puppets on the spiritual and doctrinal conflict between Muslim and Christian worship brings new meaning to the narrative of the present.
Shawky has had solo exhibitions at the Serpentine Gallery, London (2013), Kunst-Werke Contemporary Art Institute, Berlin (2012), Nottingham Contemporary (2011) and Walker Art Gallery, Liverpool (2011), among others, and has presented his work at Documenta XIII, Kassel (2012) and in the Biennales of SITE Santa Fe in the American state of New Mexico (2008), Istanbul (2005) and Venice (2003). His work is included in collections such as Tate Modern, London, Macro Museum, Rome, Darat Al Funun, Amman, Luxembourg Museum of Modern Art, APT Dubai and MACBA, Barcelona.