I SAVED MY BELLY DANCER: Youssef Nabil
After months of intense planning, filming and production, New York-based Egyptian artist Youssef Nabil's second video, I Saved My Belly Dancer, will be premiering in the Middle East at The Third Line's new space at Alserkal Avenue.
I Saved my Belly Dancer is a poetic depiction of Youssef’s fascination with belly dancers and his anxiety over the disappearance of the art form that is unique to the Middle East. The 12-minute video is visually inspired by the 50s golden age cinema of Egypt and touches upon Youssef's fraught relationship with his home country—both elements that inform a large aspect of his practice.
A sleeping man (Tahar Rahim) dreams of his old glamorous Egypt, which is disappearing. A last remaining belly dancer (Salma Hayek) comes to comfort him and tell him that his world has not vanished. She dances for him a last dance before he takes her with him to the American desert where he now lives. The video progresses without any dialogue, and the imagery is ubiquitous with surrealism and symbolism that makes Youssef’s work much more than unassuming reminiscence. Loss, displacement, memory, exile and rebirth continue to be a recurring theme in Youssef’s work. The video is a self-portrait of his history and relationship with Egypt—and his separation from it—as well as what is left of the past within memory; even if it is no longer a part of reality. The video also explores shifting perceptions of the position of women in the region, with the amplified sexualisation of their bodies a growing problem in the new social constructs. It is this, and the fear of losing an indigenous art form to time and changing ideologies, that inspired Youssef to work on I Saved My Belly Dancer.
The photographic work produced from this video is done in Youssef’s characteristic technique of hand colouring black and white photographs—one that finds inspiration in the movie posters and billboards of the Egyptian cinema of the mid twentieth century.