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Young Animators in Los Angeles Interpret the Writing of Egypt’s Nobel Laureate Naguib Mahfouz

At a time of tumultuous change in the Middle East, Los Angeles middle and high school students build bridges of understanding.

Students in CalArts Community Arts Partnerships’ (CAP) Sony Pictures Media Arts Program (SPMAP) create original animated films inspired by Mahfouz’s writing.

For 11 years, SPMAP has provided free animation programs for kids in Los Angeles and brought artistic and technical training to young people in some of the city’s most underserved neighborhoods.

Valencia, CA, May 10—Animated films foster cultural understanding when Los Angeles youth interpret the work of Egyptian author and Nobel Laureate Naguib Mahfouz. Middle and high school students in CalArts Community Arts Partnerships’ (CAP) Sony Pictures Media Arts Program (SPMAP) have collaborated to make original animated films based on Mahfouz’s deeply observed tales of life in mid-twentieth century Cairo.

A screening on Saturday, June 8 at California Institute of the Arts (CalArts) Modular Theater at 2 pm will showcase films from the five Sony Pictures Media Arts Program (SPMAP) sites. Press is invited to attend.

SPMAP students from the Banning’s Landing Community Center, Center for the Arts Eagle Rock, San Fernando Gardens Community Service Center and the William Reagh Los Angeles Photography Center created work inspired by Mahfouz’s novel The Thief and the Dogs, an NEA Big Read book. At the Watts Towers Arts Center, students adapted “The Conjurer Made Off with the Dish,” also written by Mahfouz.

These works celebrate Egypt's rich history and bear witness to its 20th century political and social issues. “To be enriched by the book, students need to understand the culture,” said CalArts faculty Betty Lee who teaches the SPMAP class at the Watts Towers Arts Center. To inform their interpretations of Mahfouz’s stories, her students studied Egypt’s arts, culture and history. Using hand-drawn, stop motion and computer animation, they created their interpretations of 1960s Cairo populated with Mahfouz’s cast of city dwellers.

“The Conjurer Made Off with the Dish” is a gritty urban odyssey in which a boy traverses the city over the course of an eventful day and night. Students combined this story with the iconography of Egypt’s past—modeling their characters on ancient Egyptian figures with three-dimensional clay heads and flat stylized bodies and basing the film’s sculpted clay background on Arabic writing and ancient Egyptian design.

For the past 11 years, the Sony Pictures Media Arts Program (SPMAP)—a public-private educational partnership between the California Institute of the Arts (CalArts) Community Arts Partnership (CAP), the City of Los Angeles Department of Cultural Affairs (DCA) and Sony Pictures Entertainment (SPE)—has provided free animation programs for kids in Los Angeles and brought artistic and technical training to young people in some of the city’s most underserved neighborhoods.

Through SPMAP, middle and high school students receive instruction in drawing, animation, and media arts at five community centers that are owned and operated by the City of Los Angeles. These centers are the Banning’s Landing Community Center in Wilmington, Center for the Arts Eagle Rock in Eagle Rock, San Fernando Gardens Community Service Center in Pacoima, William Reagh Los Angeles Photography Center near MacArthur Park, and the Watts Towers Arts Center in Watts.

About CalArts Community Arts Partnership (CAP): The CAP program involves youth between the ages of 10 and 18 at 52 sites throughout LA County—employing some 60 CalArts faculty members, and nearly 300 student instructors to deliver free instruction in fine art, photography, printmaking, graphic design, digital media, animation, video, jazz, world music, chamber music, theater, dance, and creative writing. Educating more than 7,500 youths each year, the CAP program has received numerous accolades—including the John Anson Ford Human Relations Award from the Los Angeles County Commission on Human Relations in 2008, the Ovation Award for Community Outreach from the Los Angeles Stage Alliance in 2006, and in 2004, the Coming Up Taller Award—a national recognition of outstanding community arts and humanities programs that celebrate the creativity of America's young people, providing the youth learning opportunities and chances to contribute to their communities.

Last edited by mcrane on Jun 11, 2013
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