In I Will Go to Paradise - Self-Portrait, Hyres, 2008, Youssef Nabil performs in a scene that he has staged in a cinematic fashion for the camera. Dressed in traditional Egyptian clothing, his back to the audience, Nabil walks away, approaches the sea, enters it and disappears as the sun goes down. Questioning issues of migration, Youssef Nabil alludes to life and death, to destiny and fate and poetically reveals his own perception of existence. By hand-colouring his still photographs, Nabil removes the blemishes of reality, adds a sense of nostalgia and timelessness and re-contextualises himself as a character in a film referring to the Golden Age of Egyptian cinema.
'I grew up in Cairo as a Muslim, and in Islam we speak a lot about destiny - that each of us has a written time to come into this world and a time to leave and whatever happens in between is also written, written by God.
In a way, this has stayed in my mind forever. And I started observing my life as if I was in a cinema watching and witnessing every minute of my own movie. The movie was set and written before I entered the theatre and now it is time just to sit and watch.
Still, every now and then, I worry about things and start asking myself, why am I here? What am I experiencing? And what is the reason for life? Then I quickly remind myself that I don't need to try to figure things out that it was all already written up there, way before the movie started. Now I just need to relax and wait, wait till the end of the movie, till the end of it all. When the lights come on and it is time to leave, time to leave the cinema.
I have grown up with this idea in my mind that the end of my movie would mean I am dead, that I have completed my life. I have lived every day thinking that this might be my last, or the last day of someone I love. I prayed to God that I will be the first one to leave so I don't see anyone I love dying. That was my way of keeping everyone in my movie alive. I won't let them die before me.
I don't know how long this will last. Maybe my movie is a short one after all. Do we live for a purpose and die once we have finished what we were supposed to? Why should I need to live longer if I knew that I had lived my life?'
(The artist quoted in O. Zaya, Youssef Nabil I Won't Let You Die, Ostfildern 2008, p. 7).
Youssef Nabil's works have been shown in many institutions on the international art scene amongst which are the Villa Medici, the Venice Biennale, the Institut du Monde Arabe, the Metropolitan Museum and the British Museum. His works are held in important public and private collections and were rewarded many international awards in the past few years.