Dakar, Senegal 2018
Yara Mekwawi's new work sculpts sound from found objects and instruments amplified through speakers creating a conversation between the sound of now and the sound of then. She invites listeners to interact directly with the piece and its components, posing an important question around the human-centric compass of listening, and therefore the lack of it. Those new noises which have proliferated in our soundscapes in recent history, greatly influence how we listen and hear our sonic pasts, and how we consequently relate to today's current social and geopolitical present. Mekawei's intention with this work is to remind listeners and the audiences that we do not only hear but also listen. With that in mind, she works with simple technology which allows us to refocus our listening practice to sculpted elements out of sound, to strip down such assumptions by providing listeners with experience and capacity to create/recreate sound through physical interaction.
The Kora, Djembe/Jembe, Kalimba, Udu, The Talking Drum, Marimba, The Balafon, Mbira, Shekere, and Algaita, are considered to be the most acoustic instruments found across the African continent. Such instruments are produced mainly from wood which makes their amplification very powerful even if unplugged. The spiritual connection between rhythm in African music and the Muslim muwāshshaḥāt, the emergence of the spirit of God from musical rhythms enhances the idea of prayer by music. The listener is free to make a sound any way they'd want to, through the ionic interaction of the deconstructed and reconstructed instruments and various elements found in the sound corridor. The manipulation of the acoustic instruments also creates a new visual representation of those same instruments.
I started my research ( Al Mujahid / المجاهد ) in Cairo Egypt 2016, this research is based on recording the ceremonies of Sufi celebrations in different areas in Cairo with many groups, this research led me to Europe to Zurich, Switzerland through my residency at the beginning of this year to meet the Arab immigrants in Switzerland, record their Sufi meetings, and how they are different from what I saw in Egypt and what I heard about in North Africa. Hence the desire to return to Dakar, Senegal; one of the largest African countries that include the mystical Sufi party in Africa and the followers of the Sufi doctrine.
Then came an invitation from Savvy Gallery in Berlin to participate in Dakar Biennial 2018 with the theme of ( Halem El Dabh ) the legend of the sound art in Africa, who one of his projects he did in Dakar on the theme of African music; with his records in the big market in Dakar (Sengada) he built his soundtracks, which it is the same way I compose my soundtracks, So I was so interested to work on this project through my research and have the opportunity to show for the second time in Dakar Biennial.
In spite of this, I went to Dakar before, but that time was different, I looked at the city from a different perspective, I used various tools to hunt the sound from many phenomenal spots in the city. I will not forget this experience, not only because of this project and research which I am still working on; but also because of what happened in the exhibition setup. Two days before the opening I was almost finishing my setup, the installation should setup between two big trees in the garden of the IFAN museum, then the coordinator of the project called me while I setting on the chair under one of the big trees, she needs me to see something inside the building, I said yes and after around 5 seconds the tree falls on the ground! fall on my chair! fall with all the objects of my installation! I took some hours to realize the situation, then I decided to use the tree which falls on the ground as the main object in my installation.
Interview with Salym Fayad @ FRANCE 24
Al Mujahid "The Mechanism"
Berlin, Germany 2021
This sonic tableau seeks inspiration in Halim El-Dabh’s lifelong research of the very source of the sound, and the way sounds from different sources co-live in space and time. Just like Halim El-Dabh was looking for the source of sounds that surround us, connecting all sounds to the spectrality of noise, Mekawei’s work is a deliberation on where machines’ lives begin and their sound sources. She uses motors that instigate minimal sounds when scratching the surface of a speaker. The sculpture consists of 150 DC motors scratching the surface of 5cm raw speakers, activated by a tone generator.
A possible sound consists precisely of a specific form, which sufficiently occupies ample space. Sound has the effective power to naturally generate anthropomorphic, inspiring movements, the complex rhythm of a harmonic vibration. The sound accurately represents the frequency inherent in us, no matter how dormant things are and the movement of our bodies is bare, they contain millions of sounds, even static objects have sounds. Continuing thoughtfully to study El Dabh's musical biography, many questions appear about optical sound configurations, which highlight visual swings for the sound industry, confiscation, and trends.
This segment continues to remain another aspect of the “Al Mujahid” project, the journey of identifying the sound, implementing the sculpture as a speaker that headed us to be part of it, diving into the contribution of composing the sound by machines. In this part, I instantly set the complex process and result at the same time, a direct listing does not necessarily invite a speaker; it naturally lacks an attentive ear, executive power, and proper time and sometimes comes with the mutual feeling of lively apprehension.
Based on El Dabh’s unique approach as a Pan-Africanism in the complex composition of the philosophical concept of listing; I am overwhelmingly adopting transdisciplinary aesthetic practices to instantly recognize the hidden sounds with sonic mediums. The unique voice that attempts to familiar noise. Among all home-grown and diasporan ethnic groups of African dive; I found myself raised in Africa, not only related to that history but exotic cultures on visible top create perform chaos. Which makes me struggle for awareness, healing, and survival. This traditionally is the case of Al Mujahid.