9 April 2024

NMA to lift the veil on Egyptian-Australian culture for one magical night

| Dione David
group of drummers at outdoor event

The Zaffe Band will punctuate the Illuminating Egypt evening with traditional Arabian drumming. Photo: NMA.

The National Museum of Australia (NMA) is about to up the ante on the exhibition of rare and remarkable Egyptian artefacts that has so far attracted 75,000 visitors since opening in December last year.

The museum’s annual cultural festival will this year complement Discovering Ancient Egypt with an incredible one-night immersive event open to all.

As the sun goes down on the first day of the school holidays, the museum, its gardens and forecourt will light up for Illuminating Egypt – an evening of culture and community under the stars.

With the lure of epic light installations, the sizzling smells of culturally significant foods and the sounds of traditional performances, NMA head of programs Jessi England says there’s an open invitation.

“This is very much a family-friendly event suited to all ages and abilities. The program kicks off at 4 pm and will be an all-encompassing experience,” she says.

“As well as a performance program on the main stage that everyone can enjoy, we have specific child-friendly creative activities inside the building. We want people from all walks of life to be able to immerse themselves in cultures from Egypt and surrounding countries.”

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Egypt-inspired family activities will include everything from lantern making, stamping with phonetic hieroglyphs, Egyptian Coptic calligraphy and Egyptian papyrus art making.

Audiences will see performances by Egyptian-Australian musicians and dancers, including percussionists Tarek and Youssef Sawires, The Zaffe Band traditional Arabian drumming, Banat Amar dance troupe, masterful oud player George Wasef and ancient hymns from St Mark’s Coptic Orthodox Church.

“We worked closely with the Egyptian-Australian community to develop the program for this event, and landed on a dynamic schedule of performances,” Jessi says.

“I’m personally very much looking forward to hearing Yuval Ashkar, an amazing classical Egyptian musician who sings in Arabic.

“The line-up is diverse – you have the high energy of the traditional percussion from The Zaffe Band to the uplifting vocals of the St Mark’s Coptic Orthodox Church choir, and everything in between.”

Ancient Egyptian Artefact at the NMA

The Discovering Ancient Egypt exhibition will have extended opening hours for festival night. Photo: Region.

As with any good cultural festival, evidence of one of the greatest highlights will be wafting through the air. A feast of mouth-watering street food from across the Middle East and North Africa will include homemade vegan dishes, sweets and delicious cuisine from Egypt and neighbouring countries including Turkey, Jordan, Lebanon and Ethiopia.

“We’ll have Egyptian street food from the St Mark’s community, and I have it on good authority the shish kebabs are just delicious,” Jessi says.

“A number of stalls are doing traditional teas and coffees from the region as well.”

Visitors will also be transported by a souk-inspired marketplace, where they can discover exquisite treasures including hand-crafted drums, ceramics, scarves, clothing and jewellery, grocery items, fragrances and authentic Coptic giftware.

“The marketplace will have such a vibe,” Jessi says. “The focus will be on small-scale businesses and producers, and there will be some great shopping.”

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Some of the projections used in the Discovering Ancient Egypt exhibition will be brought outside for the occasion. The exhibition will run for extended opening hours for the night (until 8 pm).

Jessi says it’s the perfect opportunity to discover the exhibition that has enthralled so many and get up close and personal with fascinating Middle Eastern and North African cultures.

“The event plugs right into the museum’s core aims – finding different ways to connect with the community, creating a welcoming and accessible space and working with different cultural communities to develop programs that help share their stories.

“In creating this wondrous and immersive atmosphere, we hope people feel they’re entering a different world through light, sound and smell, and get a taste of Egyptian culture within the Australian context.”

The Illuminating Egypt Festival takes place on Saturday 13 April from 4 pm to 8 pm with free entry. Costs apply for some activities, including entry to the Discovering Ancient Egypt exhibition which will remain open until 8 pm for the night.

Original Article published by Dione David on Riotact.

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