Manar Moursi

The Wonderbox project was a contemporary revival of the culturally extinct Egyptian theater box storytelling tradition. Commissioned by Mahatat for Contemporary Art, the project was a collaboration between myself and 9 artists of different backgrounds - musicians, actors, pupeteers, directors, technologists, and architects. Together we worked on the design and construction of two boxes that were brought to life in a month-long series of live performances which traveled throughout Cairo.

I was responsible for the design and construction of the two boxes along with architect Mohamed Hasan. The first sandook's (box) design was inspired by the mirrored Islamic patterns of mosques in Iran and small grocery shops in Cairo. Seeing that mirrors were also employed as animation tools in the praxinscope-like techniques used inside the traditional boxes, it was decided that mirrors in an Islamic pattern would be projected on a geodesic sphere. The form of a sphere was employed because of its purity and the desire to connect visually to magic crystal and disco balls. The sphere was built as two geodesic domes that fit perfectly onto each other and these domes were further broken into 2 types of triangles that were attached together by joints that could be connected and disconnected. Inside this sandook, set designer Maya Gowaily design cut out stage sets that matched the stories being narrated by the storytelling performers and musicians. These cutouts were animated with projection mapping implented and designed by Yasmin ElAyat and Yousef Faltas.

For the second sandook, the form was derived from the ice cream carts that one sees regularly around Cairo. The ice cream cart fulfilled both functional (size of projection screen) and aesthetic requirements as it was meant to surprise the viewer who would be called at by its everyday familiar sight with a slightly different palette of colors and form only to discover a whole set of digital wonders to be experienced by peeping through its holes -- such as holograms and videos. The sandook's stories were collected from microbus and taxi drivers and turned into myth like allegories. These were performed as audible stories by actors Laila El Balouty and Ahmed Mostafa, and musically accompanied by Shadi El Husseiny and Abdallah Abu Zekry. Director Aida El Kashef acted as curator and coordinated the implementation of all parts of the project.

Project Team: Manar Moursi, Aida El Kashef, Yasmin Elayat, Laila El Balouty, Maya Gowaily, Mohamed Hasan, Ahmed Mostafa, Shadi El Husseiny, Abdallah Abu Zekry and Yousef Faltas. Supported by a grant from the Swiss Development Cooperation.