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 archeological 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.

Screenings of Al Araba Al Madfuna I and II will take place at The Polygon Gallery during the run of the exhibition.


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


Wael Shawky

Wael Shawky (born 1971) is one of the most fascinating contemporary Arab artists. He investigates history, its interpretations and the ways in which the past influences the present. This catalog is dedicated to his research on the history of the Crusades, embodied in his environments, films, sculptures and drawings. These works, narrated from an Arab point of view, shed new light on the roots of some of the major cultural and sociopolitical crises of today. This catalog includes a new artist’s project consisting of drawings realized in dialog with Heinrich von Kleist’s essay “On the Marionette Theater” (1810), as well as new critical essays by Carolyn Christov-Bakargiev and Laura U. Marks and a conversation between Marcella Beccaria and the artist. Together with archival materials and works related to Shawky’s film series Cabaret Crusades, the catalog presents a scholarly exhibition chronology.


Wael Shawky - Al Araba Al Madfuna

Egyptian artist Wael Shawky (born 1971) is a storyteller. Al Araba Al Madfuna records a new, large-scale video installation based on his personal experiences in Upper Egypt, where, with the collaboration of local children, he restaged the epic story of a local shaman.


Meet The Makers

Join us on Saturday, December 14th, for an intimate pop-up event and meet some of the talented makers behind a selection of local goods in The Polygon Shop….

Cabaret Crusades: The Secrets Of Karbala

On the final day of the exhibition Wael Shawky: Al Araba Al Madfuna, The Polygon Gallery is pleased to screen the third instalment of Wael Shawky’s film…

Connections, meanings, and challenges.

What was your experience with this exhibition?

Experience The Polygon in the best way possible.

Members are among those who are closest to The Polygon’s work in the community and beyond. By contributing to a strong foundation of support, Members enjoy exclusive front-of-the-line privileges while helping to provide artists with a platform for their work, facilitate lifelong learning opportunities, and so much more.


facebook twitter instagram

Download on the App Store

Get it on Google Play

Visit the Polygon

101 Carrie Cates Court
North Vancouver, BC V7M 3J4

Situated on the unceded territories of the Skwxwú7mesh, Tsleil-Waututh, and xwməθkwəýəm Nations.

The Polygon Gallery continues the forty-year reputation of Presentation House Gallery in engaging the public with the most visionary artists of our time. A new waterfront landmark on Vancouver's North Shore, The Polygon offers a one-of-a-kind space to encounter contemporary visual art with a focus on photography.

Admission always by donation, courtesy of Slice 1