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Willem de Famars Testas (1834-1896), Streetscape with coffee house in Cairo, ca 1860-1872.
ExhibitionComing soon

Yalla Yalla! See You in Egypt

18.10.2024 - 02.02.2025

Teylers Museum

Adults

At the exhibition 'Yalla Yalla! See You in Egypt', Teylers Museum puts the work of the nineteenth-century artist Willem de Famars Testas centre stage in a whole new way. The oldest museum in the Netherlands has plotted a journey in the exhibition, in collaboration with Dutch-Egyptian actor and theatre-maker Sabri Saad El-Hamus, prizewinning podcaster Tjitske Mussche and internationally known scenographer and maker Theun Mosk of studio Ruimtetijd. With Testas’s work as its guide, they take visitors along on a journey across the boundaries of time, space and cultures. 'Yalla Yalla! See You in Egypt' will run from 18 October 2024 until 9 February 2025.

Willem de Famars Testas
In 1858, the young and as yet unknown artist Willem de Famars Testas (1834-1896) embarked on a long, life-changing journey to Egypt. The scents, colours, sounds, mosques, the povery, the climate – everything was different, as the diary he kept and the letters he sent also reveal: ‘The hustle and bustle of this place is quite strange: everywhere one meets camels, donkeys and horses, laden with all kinds of things, and also swarms of donkeys, which one sees everywhere with their boys.’ The scenery of this new world inspired him to make paintings, watercolours, sketches and drawings. Many of them are held in the collections of the Rijksmuseum, the Bibliothèque Nationale de France and Teylers Museum.

Willem de Famars Testas (1834-1896), Streetscape with coffee house in Cairo, ca 1860-1872.

Willem de Famars Testas (1834-1896), Streetscape with coffee house in Cairo, ca 1860-1872.

Teylers Museum collection

Terry van Druten and Sabri Saad El-Hamus at a burial chamber in Luxor, February 2024.

Terry van Druten and Sabri Saad El-Hamus at a burial chamber in Luxor, February 2024.

Photography: Tjitske Mussche

Journey to Egypt 2024

Scenes of distant ‘exotic’ countries were a popular feature of European art in the nineteenth century, but they also convey a certain stereotypical image. How relevant is Testas’s image of Egypt today, and what do we make of his descriptions now?

Curator Terry van Druten – a huge fan of Testas’s work for fifteen years – Sabri Saad El-Hamus and Tjitske Mussche travelled to Egypt in Testas’s footsteps last February. They visited places where Testas made drawings and looked to see how those places had changed. They spoke with Egyptians and with each other about Egypt then and now. Mussche processed their adventures into an audio travelogue focusing on multiple perspectives. Not only Testas’s view of Egypt, but also, for example, El-Hamus’s view of the Netherlands, foreign to him when he first arrived here as a ‘bearer of good fortune’ at the age of 21. Sabri Saad El-Hamus: 'When I read the travel diary, I was surprised by his view of the Egyptians. Sometimes he seems utterly out of touch, or plainly racist. Still, he also says things about Egypt that are true, even today. I also recognized something in him: I, too, had those feelings of alienation and homesickness when I came to the Netherlands as a young man in a completely new world.’

Exhibition

In Theun Mosk’s exciting space – with paintings, drawings, film footage and photographs – visitors to Teylers Museum can listen to dialogues between Van Druten and El-Hamus, and fragments from Testas’s diary, read out by actor Florian Myjer. The music was composed especially for this exhibition by the young composer Youssra El Hawary of Cairo. Testas’s work challenges visitors to make a voyage of discovery in Egypt and encounter ‘the other’ and themselves.

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