Saturday,18 August, 2018
Current issue | Issue 1261, (3 - 9 September 2015)
Saturday,18 August, 2018
Issue 1261, (3 - 9 September 2015)

Ahram Weekly

Henein’s many roles

The dismissal of renowned sculptor Adam Henein from the post of Commissar of the Aswan Sculpture Symposium comes as a surprise to many, writes Nevine El-Aref

Henein’s many roles
Henein’s many roles
Al-Ahram Weekly

After 20 years in the post since he founded it in 1995, the commissar of the Aswan International Sculpture Symposium (AISS) Adam Henein was dismissed by the Cultural Development Fund (CDF). He was appointed chairman of the Aswan Sculpture Open-air Museum’s board of trustees and honorary head of the AISS instead.

According to sculptor Sherif Abdel-Badi’, Henein not only established the symposium but also resurrected stone sculpture in Egypt and created in the AISS the only international granite sculpture symposium on earth. He also developed strong ties with artists from all over the world, something that enabled him to hold the event even in 2012 and 2013, during the aftermath of the 2011 Revolution, when foreigners were advised not to visit Egypt. Chairing the Open-air Museum board is no trifling post, Abdel-Badi’ added, since it involves overseeing the exhibition of works produced over 20 years of the AISS – but it does not make up for losing him as commissar.

“Henein was the right person in the right place,” Abdel-Badi’ said, reproaching the CDF for its decision to dismiss Henein. “At least they should have informed him before announcing the news to the media,” he asserted, adding that Henein was about to leave anyway. “When the CDF dedicated last year’s round, the 20th anniversary of the AISS, to Henein, he told me that the symposium had reached its zenith and it was about time to retire...”

On the occasion, Abdel-Badi’ also suggests that the AISS should adopt a new mission to correctly landscape squares in all Egyptian cities and towns. “Using artistic sculptures would not only beautify the squares but also reflect the art movement in Egypt,” he saiad, explaining that each new round of the AISS should be dedicated to a governorate in Egypt.

“What has been done with Henein is a great insult to his professional and artistic standing,” another artist speaking on condition of anonymity said, describing the manner of Henein’s dismissal as “shameful” and reiterating the idea that, if not for him, the AISS would not exist.

For his part Henein received the news with equanimity. If the CDF wants to do so, he said, it is up to them, though he was never officially notified and found out from a friend, whose information the television later corroborated.

“I am not at all angry. I achieved more than I was expected with the AISS since its birth in 1995. But I am worry about the future for the AISS and the Open-air Museum,” he said, describing the new decisions “unclear”. Until now, he added, no one knows who will be the new commissar. “I will by no means accept the post of the honorary head of the AISS,” he added. “What does that post mean? An engineer without a job? I need to work, not to be placed on a shelf.”

Henein went on to say that his dismissal no insult. “I will always keep my place among artists and I did a lot for the AISS and the Open-air Museum. Through the symposium, I returned the art of granite sculpting in Egypt to its heydays and nurtured a generation of skilful sculptors who can easily compete with their counterparts abroad and be assured of winning. I only ask one very important thing: that the Open-air Museum should be made into an independent entity, separate from the AISS.” Otherwise, he explained, it might be subject to negligence or even vandalism. The museum, which houses over 200 sculptures from 52 countries, is one of a kind. “I don’t want anyone to destroy the museum’s scenery, style and concept, which depend on its magnificent location where the yellow sand embraces the blue Nile and the greenery of the oasis in front.” The pieces in the museum, he feels, are like children that should be safeguarded in their place.

As to his appointment chairman of the board, Henein said, “I have not heard anything about that post as the administration of the CDF did not inform me of it, but if they ask me I will definitely accept because I am very worried about the museum.”

CDF Head Mohamed Abusaeda, on the other hand, says Henein was not dismissed from the post – he will remain the AISS’s godfather and founder – but the idea is to make way for younger talent and development. “This is rather a recognition of Henein’s role in making the AISS an international-standard event.”

Abusaeda went on to say that the CDF is adopting a new administration policy for AISS that depends on selecting a new commissar every round, to be joined by a “supreme committee” of artists that have previously participated in the AISS along with a new group of young artists.

“Such a new policy aims at pumping new creative blood into the concept, which in its turn will guarantee the continuation of such an international event. Henein, on the other hand, now has a new mission in the museum, which he will no doubt accomplish efficiently.”

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