Wael Shawky: Al Araba Al Madfuna

This exhibition brings the extraordinary and timely art of Wael Shawky to the west coast for the first time. Shawky’s ambitious, multilayered film productions look at the ways in which history and mythologies are recorded, highlighting the fallibility of cultural memory, while offering critical perspectives on our current narratives of uncertainty and change. Shawky brings into dialogue real and imagined histories of the Arab world in provocative retellings that pose timely questions about truth and fabulation.

The last part of a trilogy of films, Al Araba Al Madfuna III was shot in the temples of the Pharaoh Seti and Osirion in the archaeological city of Abydos in Upper Egypt, nowadays the village of Al Araba Al Madfuna. This work is inspired by Egyptian writer Mohamed Mostagab’s short story “Sunflower”, and by the artist’s travels in the region, where he observed local people digging tunnels underground in search of ancient treasures. In Shawky’s theatrical restaging, he employs amateur child actors and film shot in negative to emphasise the many contingencies of historical understanding.

The first two Al Araba Al Madfuna films will be showing at The Polygon Gallery, January 7-11, from 12-5 pm in the Seaspan Pavilion.


Wael Shawky was born in Alexandria Egypt in 1971. He studied at the University of Alexandria and the University of Pennsylvania in Philadelphia and is the founder of MASS Alexandria, an artist residency program. His work has been exhibited widely including solo shows at Kunsthaus Bregenz, Austria; Mathaf, Doha; MoMa PSI, New York; Serpentine Gallery, London; and Castello di Rivoli, Turin. He is currently exhibiting at Lisson Gallery, New York. He has participated in major international exhibitions including the Istanbul Biennial, Sharjah Biennial and documenta (13). He is the recipient of the first Mario Merz Prize and his film trilogy The Cabaret Crusades was voted this month as the 7th most important artwork produced in the 21st Century by The Guardian.

Please note:

This exhibition has low lighting. If you require assistance during your visit, please contact us in advance 604-986-1351. Flash photography is not permitted in the exhibition space

Presenting sponsor:




This presentation is part of The Polygon Gallery's exhibition series New Perspectives: revealing diverse perspectives, untold stories, and new voices in visual art.

Generously supported by the Munford Family Foundation

Image: Wael Shawky, Al Araba Al Madfuna III, 2016, video still (detail), courtesy the artist and Sfeir-Semler Gallery, Beirut/Hamburg