Thursday,19 July, 2018
Current issue | Issue 1237, (12 - 18 March 2015 )
Thursday,19 July, 2018
Issue 1237, (12 - 18 March 2015 )

Ahram Weekly

Granite dreams

The 20th anniversary of the Aswan International Sculpture Symposium has a new shape, writes Nevine El-Aref

Al-Ahram Weekly

Last week, the Open-air Museum at Al-Silsilla in Aswan was converted into a large stage for the closing of the 20th Aswan International Sculpture Symposium (AISS). The museum is home to works in granite produced over the last 20 years of the symposium.

The event was made all the more special when the newly appointed minister of culture, Abdel Wahed Al-Nabawi, started his tenure by attending. He applauded the work of the former minister, Farouk Hosni, and former Aswan governor Salah Misbah for helping to create the event and supporting it.

Al-Nabawi also honoured founder and commissar Adam Henein, two French participants and Sheikha May Al-Khalifa, the Bahraini Minister of Culture, who was the AISS’s guest of honour.

Al-Nabawi told Al Ahram Weekly he was very happy to start his tenure by attending the 20th AISS. He described the event as a great achievement, and affirmed his commitment to spreading culture across the country.

“Fate has led me to start my tenure as minister of culture in Aswan and at the Open-air Museum,” Al-Nabawi said. “I send the whole world a message of peace and encourage Egyptians to continue what their ancestors started to keep their country the leader of culture and cradle of civilisations.

“Egypt is going forward for stability and development, putting culture and art of different kinds at the top of its list of priorities.”

Exhibits were individually lit and displayed under a full moon. Dancers in black and white reclined on stage while, to a selection of music featuring parts of the score of Shady Abdel-Salam’s The Night of Counting the Years, a bald dancer in an ancient Egyptian costume claimed centre stage.

He held a hammer, carving statues and temples out of thin air. He eventually handed over his tools to a dancer wearing a modern suit, who “produced” more contemporary creations.

A Sculptor’s Dream, according to choreographer Walid Aouni, recounts the history of Egyptian sculpture from ancient times to the present. The man in the suit represented the father of modern sculpture, Mahmoud Mokhtar. The dancers in white and black, using movement, celebrated several of Mokhtar’s landmark works — The Egyptian Renaissance, The Secret Keeper, Isis, Al-Khamasin.

At the end of the show, the dancers gathered around the only work produced at the current symposium, AISS Commissar Adam Henein’s The House of the Soul. The sculpture is composed of seven four-metre-high red granite pillars set in a circle.

Henein said that the work might appear to be inspired by the materials and form of an ancient Egyptian temple, though this hadn’t been his intention. He first made a model of the sculpture in the 1990s, out of 28-cm thermal bricks, and later attempted a larger scale model in granite in the garden of his Haraneya House.

“The title,” he says, “came to me while I was working. A house is not just a building, it is a protective shell and a homeland.”

The full-scale work was completed with the assistance of three young sculptors: Essam Darwish, Sherif Abdel Badie and Hani Faisal. Located between the two hills of the museum, the piece serves as “a transitional point,” according to Henein, “where we stop to take in the landscape.”

Mohamed Abuseada, the head of the Cultural Development Fund, explains that this year, rather than hosting 15 sculptors from all over the world — nine professionals and six beginners —– the commemorative round hosted only Egyptian beginners and Henein.

It was not to save costs, Abuseada was quick to point out, as the event’s budget was actually increased this year. “The idea was to boost the local scene and mark a major stop on the way, as well as honour Henein,” he says.

This year’s beginners’ workshop included two groups of seven young men and nine young women, respectively. Ahmed Makhlouf, who was working with granite for the first time, made a hemisphere out of his block of stone. Mariam Makramallah, inspired by nature, produced a depiction of “a plant in motion.”

Ramadan Abdel-Moatamed drew on Upper Egyptian folklore to produce “girls of the moon”: a star resembling the face of a beautiful girl. Ahmed Kamal created a gazelle’s skull that is also a tombstone, “the debris of failed dreams.” Hani Gabriel produced a bust of a woman with a crooked nose as a symbol of protests against the Muslim Brotherhood.

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