Yara Mekawei (Egypt)

Artists in Residence, 2022

About the Project

Yara Mekawei is a sound artist who mainly works with the materiality and immateriality of sound and explores how sound informs and transforms visual and sculptural artistic practices. For Mekawei, sound becomes a material source and a physical embodiment of knowledge(s) that animates most of her works, while exploring how sonorousness is a transducer and convergence of time-space relations, as expressed and experienced in African and Arabic philosophies.

For the past seven years, Mekawei’s research has been exploring a system of translation of sounds heard behind Sufi texts. By reading works of Sufi poets, philosophers, and scholars, such as Ibn Sina (Avicenna) and Mansur Al-Hallaj, she created a methodology that codes and decodes Arabic letters into numerals to become a score for her musical and sonic compositions. This translation process is a metamorphosis of mythology and Sufi prophet’s stories into new sonic readings of Sufi philosophies and histories.

Recently, Mekawei published her first book in her mother tongue language Arabic titled: There Are Sounds Of The Moving Images, which is a body of work resulting from years of working with, researching, and practicing within the sonic arts domain. The publication examines what she refers to as “ear vision”. Mekawei traverses conceptual questions on music and history, its interconnection to modern technologies, digital and visual art concepts concerning the philosophy of the ear, and listening practices.

Initially, Mekawei’s investigation into the urban architectures, social histories, migration of humans, and more than humans can be read through Henri Lafebre’s notion of rhythm analysis as a means of engaging with cities through their sounds and by listening to how cities shift socially, culturally politically with music.

Mekawei’s has performed and shown her work internationally, to mention a few, DAAD Galerie (Berlin, 2022), SAVVY Contemporary (Berlin, 2021), Liverpool Arab festival (Liverpool, 2021), SHUBBAK festival (London, 2021), Rote Fabrik (Zürich, 2019), MEMPHIS Gallery (Linz, 2019), Halle14 (Leipzig, 2019), Dakar Biennial (Dakar, 2018), FAK’UGESI African Digital Innovation Festival (Johannesburg, 2018), Cairotronica festival (2018), Lagos Biennial (Lagos, 2017), Art El Lewa Art Space (Cairo, 2014), Darb 1718 (Cairo, 2015), Biennale Méditerranéenne d’art Contemporain d’Oran (Oran, 2014).


The performance and presentation of Yara`s residency will be held on Friday 25th November at 7 pm, at Studio B, Spazju Kreattiv. During the event, Yara will be performing the compositions of her records that are made in Valletta, from architectural buildings, markets, and soundscapes of the city. 

Those interested to attend, are kindly asked to register by sending an email to spazju@kreattivita.org


Q&A With the Artist

TELL US ABOUT YOURSELF

Yara Mekawei is a sound artist who mainly works with the materiality and immateriality of sound and explores how sound informs and transforms visual and sculptural artistic practices. For Mekawei, sound becomes a material source and a physical embodiment of knowledge(s) that animates most of her works, while exploring how sonorousness is a transducer and convergence of time-space relations, as expressed and experienced in African and Arabic philosophies.

For the past seven years, Mekawei’s research has been exploring a system of translation of sounds heard behind Sufi texts. By reading works of Sufi poets, philosophers, and scholars, such as Ibn Sina (Avicenna) and Mansur Al-Hallaj, she created a methodology that codes and decodes Arabic letters into numerals to become a score for her musical and sonic compositions. This translation process is a metamorphosis of mythology and Sufi prophet’s stories into new sonic readings of Sufi philosophies and histories.

TELL US A BIT ABOUT YOUR ART PRACTICE AND WHAT INSPIRES YOU

Recently, Mekawei published her first book in her mother tongue language Arabic titled: There Are Sounds Of The Moving Images, which is a body of work resulting from years of working with, researching, and practicing within the sonic arts domain. The publication examines what she refers to as “ear vision”. Mekawei traverses conceptual questions on music and history, its interconnection with modern technologies, digital and visual art concepts concerning the philosophy of the ear, and listening practices.

In 2018, Mekawei founded Radio Submarine / راديو الغواصة . As a storyteller, she is traversing African cities through the dimension of their sonority and music. One of the central connections between the different visits to each feature is water. Water becomes a space of transmission of African sensibility across the continent. Water travels beyond the geolocality of Africa as a fixed space, engaging with those who traveled (historically and today) while carrying with them their sounds and music. For Mekawei, Radio Submarine is a connection to history and represents the multiplicity of sounds and music created across various African cities. Her work repudiates colonialist cartographies that have structured and limited the movement and relationships of people across the African continent.

Initially, Mekawei’s investigation into the urban architectures, social histories, migration of humans, and more than humans can be read through Henri Lafebre’s notion of rhythm analysis as a means of engaging with cities through their sounds and by listening to how cities shift socially, culturally politically with music.

Mekawei’s has performed and shown her work internationally, to mention a few, in Niobidensaal, Neues Museum (2022, Berlin), SAVVY Contemporary (Berlin, 2021), Liverpool Arab festival (Liverpool, 2021), Donaueschingen global Festival (Donaueschingen, 2021), Rote Fabrik (Zürich, 2019), MEMPHIS Gallery (Linz, 2019), Halle14 (Leipzig, 2019), Dakar Biennial (Dakar, 2018), FAK’UGESI African Digital Innovation Festival (Johannesburg, 2018), Cairotronica festival (2018), Lagos Biennial (Lagos, 2017), Art El Lewa Art Space (Cairo, 2014), Darb 1718 (Cairo, 2015), Biennale Méditerranéenne d’art Contemporain d’Oran (Oran, 2014).

WHAT DO YOU HOPE TO ACHIEVE WITH YOUR RESIDENCY IN MALTA?

Frozen music in Valletta,

Space is also born in sound, and there where it actually finds its peculiar physical structures. Consistently associated with the temporary nature of the acoustic phenomenon and its intangibility, which in turn lies in the ambiguity of the elastic. Places space in various situations: in the same objective and medium, question, and process, essentially a quiet machine teaching the gentleness of the sound designer. A changing open perspective as listening to oneself, such as whether sound can be not only an architectural analogy but also its vibrational principle. Similar to the way Goethe wisely called architecture: “as frozen music”

Throughout Tunis, Constantine, Alexandria, Palermo, and Palma; I recorded several soundscapes of each city. Focusing on the architecture and the local markets. Planning my own urban sonic map. In Valletta, many ambient sounds follow. Another language to listen to. Many stories to record.

Spazju Kreattiv Artists’ Residency programme is organised in collaboration with the Valletta Design Cluster and the Ministry for Gozo