Saturday,22 September, 2018
Current issue | Issue 1278, (14 - 20 January 2016)
Saturday,22 September, 2018
Issue 1278, (14 - 20 January 2016)

Ahram Weekly

Transcontinental frames

Nesmahar Sayed sees Egypt in Africa and Europe alike

Transcontinental frames
Transcontinental frames
Al-Ahram Weekly

EU Ambassador James Moran handed out awards, including photo equipment, to the winners of the eighth EU photography competition, “Egypt is the gift of the Nile” in a riverside ceremony last December. He also honoured the jury with gifts of appreciation. Moran stressed that “culture can do more than policy” in the way of tolerance and peace.

First prize winner Mahmoud Esmat — a hobbyist who learned photography through online courses and books — says he made his photo The Golden River specifically for the contest. He went to the Nile with one idea, but once there developed very different concepts. Every Egyptian, Esmat said, is attached to the Nile in their own way. The river, he went on, is “a shelter and a refuge”.
The second and third prizes, “The Nile’s Smile” and “Reflection”, went to Ramy Moussa Heikal and Farid Abdin, respectively.

Over 150 photos were submitted by over 50 contestants, according to jury member Osama Boshra, a tour guide and a photographer. “As a result of my profession as a tour guide,” Boshra says, “I am always exposed to the beauty of Egypt so when I found out about the concept of the competition I remembered how the ancient Egyptians felt grateful for the Nile and saw it as the god Hapi, composed of a male and a female in one body...” An evocation of that spirit, and technical soundness, is what he was looking for in competition entries.

Abdeen, whose photo of fishermen on their way home from the water won third place, had taken part in a photography club workshop in Port Said.

For his part Moran said the photos submitted this year covered everyday life and landscapes along the Nile from the Delta to Aswan. A picture, he says, is worth a thousand words.

“Nothing is quite like cultural events to bring people together,” he explained, “when you engage with countries like Egypt in areas like artistic photography or any other cultural field. If we want to have a real partnership with any country, then this is essential. Trade, the economy, politics are very important but cultural cooperation adds a special ingredient to the relations and such an event is also a good example of offering an opportunity to young Egyptian talents in the field of photography.”

Bringing people together through art was the aim of another event, the Africa in the Eyes of the International Artist festival in its second round, according to its director Omar Gharib. The focus, he says, was Egyptian-African relations.

The festival took place at the stately house Beit Al-Senary in Sayyeda  Zeinab. It included paintings, caricatures, poetry and folklore.

“It is no coincidence that the festival should be held for two years in that same venue,” said Ayman Mansour, the Beit Al-Senary director. “Ibrahim Al-Senary was a Sudanese officer who managed to become the prime minister in Egypt, when Egypt and Sudan were one state.”

Mansour also referred to Min Fat Adimu Tah (or “He who abandons his past is lost”), another Africa-focused event at Beit Al-Senary whose aim is to revive traditional art and craft and introduce it to the young. Sudan was the 2015 guest of honour, he said. This year the guest of honour will be Mauritania, another African country.

“Africa is the mother and it represents the roots,” says novelist and poet Howaieda Atta who, as Egypt’s goodwill ambassador to the UAE, is one of the festival’s sponsors. “We’re alive thanks to the Nile that emerges from its depths. The black continent is an cultural powerhouse through which we can put an end to arrogance and terrorism using art and culture.”

The beauty of the African face was the focus of Farida Darwish’s painting of a Nubian girl. “The African face,” Darwish commented, “is particularly attractive and expressive.”

Darwish and other participants agreed that culture can succeed where politics fails. Doaa El-Bek, who came from Alexandria to participate in the festival with a painting of three shades of African skin representing Ethiopia, Sudan and Egypt, says she was inspired by the issue of the Ethiopian Renissance Dam.

“Two of the faces were painted from photos but the Egyptian face is that of daughter,” she said.
Enas Refaat, on the other hand, painted “Africa’s characteristics: life, shapes, accessories, colours, masks” and, above all, liberty: the freedom to celebrate and to hunt.

Marwa Mamdouh had won many prizes in many exhibitions but this was the first time she painted an African face. “The African woman has a kind of symbolism that appears in my painting in the exaggeration of the long neck and the clothes connected to each other. I tried to express her soul and not only the colour of her skin,” she said.

Nassef Khalaf, another participant, believes there should be more concern with the African countries. “We are Africans,” he says, “and Egypt is the cultural source for the whole continent.” Having found out about the exhibition from Facebook, Khalaf thought of colours and nature as he worked, moving out from the dark hue of the face to multiple layers and dimensions.

Ahmed Gamal, a hobbyist, painted the face of a sad man from imagination. “All that is taking place in Africa, from violence to poverty, marks the face blue,” he says.

Likewise Abeer Abdel-Hady: her Africa is the shape of the continent with the lion king at the centre, the African woman, the forests and seagulls all rendered in a warm palette. Abdel-Hady says she wanted to counter the notion that, as Egyptians, we are separate from other Africans – a goal she manages to achieve.

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