In November 2003, internationally acclaimed Chinese artist Cai Guo Qiang, whose work draws on a wide variety of materials, symbols, narratives, and traditions, including elements of feng shui; Chinese medicine and philosophy; images of dragons and tigers; roller coasters, computers, vending machines, and gunpowder, staged a spectacular land art event in Siwa. Over five days, artists, journalists and fans gathered in the oasis to observe a kite-flying art project.
Over 350 Siwan school children painted 600 silk kites in the shapes of people, eagles and eyes. Using brushes and their hands to apply brilliant primary colors, the children decorated the kites with ornamental shapes and icons from Siwan and Egyptian culture. Children then flew their silk kites over several historical and cultural sites in Siwa. At nightfall, the exhibition concluded in a theatrical explosion of sound and light, as gunpowder fuses set the kites ablaze before majestic Siwan landscapes.
“When you see your kite flying high in the sky, it will be like seeing your artwork hanging in a gigantic sky gallery…At sunset, we will explode the fuse and watch it run up the kite strings setting the kits ablaze like dragons of fire as far into the sky as we can fly them.” – Cai Guo-Qiang
In this flock of soaring canvases, the students found an extraordinary opportunity for artistic expression; visitors learned about Siwa’s rich and unique cultural heritage; and all Siwans took pride as their story flew overhead.
As one Siwan reflected:
“Siwa – with its rich history, natural resources, heritage and human resources makes one of the most prosperous places in the world. All the kites have gone somewhere in this prosperous place. The desert has gone nowhere and will tell this story to our next generation.”