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Banana art on the River Nile


    It looked like a perfect picture story, with all the right elements — the Nile, a fountain, 2,000 large inflatable bananas heaped in the shape of a pyramid, all set in a framework of Austrian conceptual art theory. The idea was that when the fountain began to shoot water into the air the bundles of bananas piled up from the base would explode and the bananas would disperse, floating gently down the Nile.

    ”The numerous, individual elements of the floating bananas are not only supposed to change the river’s colour but also, while drifting down the river are expected to develop distinctive dynamics, individually and through mutual interplay,” read the blurb from the Austrian Cultural Forum/Cairo (acf/c), which dreamt up and organised the event.

    ”For a few hours ‘Going Bananas’ draws special attention to the daily metamorphosis as the core of our lives, intentionally posing the pivotal questions of life: ‘Why?’ The acf/c’s motto for this year — ‘Everything is in a state of flux’ — thus culminates in its grand conclusion,” the Austrians added.

    The idea, they said, was that boats would follow the bananas down river to the Nile Barrage,  monitoring both their movements and the reactions of the local people. At the barrage they would collect all the bananas, which were about 1.60 metres long, and give them to children’s homes. At the launch ceremony on the terrace of the Grand Hyatt hotel, overlooking the Nile, cultural forum director Clemens Mantl hinted at the bureaucratic hoops he had to jump through to set up the event. The governor of Cairo had agreed to sponsor it and the river police were out on the Nile in force to make sure it all went smoothly. Mantl called the project ‘a masterpiece of bureaucracy’.