Cabaret Crusades

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This session is held in the Art Gallery of Ontario, Jackman Hall (Room 002)


Led by Wael Shawky and Q&A with Sean O’Neill


Wael Shawky’s work tackles notions of national, religious and artistic identity through film, performance and storytelling. Whether instructing Bedouin children to act out the construction of an airport runway in the desert or organizing a heavy metal concert in a remote Egyptian village, Shawky frames contemporary culture through the lens of historical tradition and vice versa. Mixing truth and fiction, childlike wonder and spiritual doctrine, Shawky has staged epic recreations of the medieval clashes between Muslims and Christians in his trilogy of puppet animations: Cabaret Crusades: The Horror Show Files (2010), The Path to Cairo (2012) and The Secrets of Karbala (2015). In 2010, Shawky founded the educational space MASS Alexandria.


Wael Shawky uses a range of media to produce work that explores issues of history, religion, culture and the effects of globalisation on today’s society. We will view and discuss together key parts of Shawky’s ambitious film trilogy Cabaret Crusades, in which he focuses on the complex historical and sociopolitical narratives surrounding the Christian Holy Wars. Shawky engages with history, including interpretations of history, as raw material. ‘History and theatre are caught up in each other…the cabaret is a stage for history, as a performance. But for me, as someone who does not believe in any single version of history, this uncertainty is of fundamental importance’.