Shaaban al-Lawand Shaaban al-Lawand

Back to Egypt

Wed, May. 17, 2017
By Sherif Awad

With the dawn of the Egyptian film industry during the early days of the 20th century, Cairo became a new Mecca for Arab artists, musicians and cineastes where they launched their career and gained their stardom. One of those pioneers was Shaaban al-Lawand, a multidisciplinary artist working as a songwriter, painter and calligrapher.

Nicknamed “sheikh of artists” in his home country Lebanon, al-Lawand moved to Kuwait where his son Fadi was born then to Cairo where the family lived for thirty years.

Shaaban made a name for himself in the Egyptian cinema industry as the painter of posters and artworks of films on billboards and cinema theaters. He also designed album covers for cassettes released by Maurice Iskander’s Morriphone, the music company responsible for early albums by the Tunisian Latifa, the Moroccan Samira Said, the Algerian Warda and the Saudi Talal al-Madah.

“In Cairo, I lived in Dokki for 13 years,” remembers Fadi. “I was a student at Orman School and all my childhood memories across Egypt are still in my mind and my heart.” Since he was five years old, Fadi has been on sets, getting to meet actors like Mahmoud Yassin and his wife Shahira, actress Isaad Younes during her early career and veteran film and TV director Tayseer Abood.

“During the 1970s, I was fascinated by Egyptian theater, especially comedies made by Mohamed Sobhy like the popular play El-Joker,” explains Fadi. “At school, I was the best child actor, either performing or imitating famous artists. However, in the late eighties, our family returned to Beirut.

There were difficult times during the civil war going on in Lebanon. We needed to go back because my father could not renew his Egyptian residency visa anymore”

In Beirut, Fadi, then 14, ventured into professional acting. “My first experience was on the stage of the Piccadilly Theatre on Hamra Street with the late actor Ibrahim Maraachli co-starring in a comic play called Ibrahim Effendi and the 40 Thieves.

The following acting experiences came with another iconic comedian, Mahmoud Mabsot, known for rendition of comic character Fahman, which he played for several years. “Growing up I studied arts at the Lebanese university while appearing in several Lebanese serials on LBC, Future and many TV stations,” Fadi says.

"Later, starting from the year 2000, I was travelling across the Arab world performing plays I also wrote and directed at Arab theater festivals in Muscat, Jerash and Doha.

Four years later, the family decided to move again. This time, Fadi, his wife and his father Shaaban al-Lawand relocated to Belgium.

“Arriving in Europe, it was difficult to continue in the art field during my first years,” says Fadi, who then dedicated his time to working on and finalizing European residency paperwork for himself and his family.

“I returned to the Middle East artistic scene when I was invited as jury member of the short film competition at the 2014 Muscat film festival. Many Egyptian celebrities were there and I was very happy to reconnect again,” he remembers.

Fadi eventually came back to Egypt this year after two decades of absence. It was in Aswan International Women Film Festival whose organizers invited him among many other international celebrities.

“I became the festival’s representative in Europe after meeting its president Mohamed Abd el-Khalek and the director Hassan Abou el-Ela at Malmo Arab Film Festival last year,” explains Fadi. “I wanted to do anything for Egypt, a country I adore, and so I started to contact European media and artists to invite them to Aswan to promote the new festival and Egypt.

After attending the first edition that took place last February, I can say that the Aswan Festival has great potential in promoting tourism and culture, especially in the Upper Egyptian region.

Egyptians have a great way in welcoming foreigners and communicating with other cultures. This is why visitors who came like to return.”

Back to Flanders, Fadi succeeded in establishing Espace Mondiale d’Interculture Euro-Afrique (EMIEA). “The name stands for or the World Space for Intercultural Euro-African,” explains Fadi.

“It is a new association that will venture into organizing an African-European festival and many other artistic events to support the dialogue between Europe and Africa. On the other hand, I hope to finalize several coproduction deals between Egyptian film companies and their European counterparts to release quality feature films in the near future.”

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