Thursday,25 April, 2019
Current issue | Issue 1395, (24 - 30 May 2018)
Thursday,25 April, 2019
Issue 1395, (24 - 30 May 2018)

Ahram Weekly

A trove revealed

Egypt’s Renaissance
Al-Ahram Weekly

In a remarkable blog post written — notably — in vernacular Arabic, critic, scholar and former culture minister Emad Abu Ghazi this week celebrated 90 years since the unveiling of Egypt’s Renaissance, the best known work by the great pioneering  sculptor Mahmoud Mokhtar (1891-1934). 

Himself a nephew of the artist’s as well as a long-time pillar of the cultural establishment, Abu Ghazi shared a wealth of archival material. 

The unveiling of Mokhtar’s masterpiece took place outside Cairo’s central railway station, where the statue stood before it was moved to Cairo University Gate in 1955, on 20 May 1928. It was attended by a reportedly reluctant king Farouk, who had repeatedly postponed the event, and prime minister Mustafa Pasha Al-Nahhas. 

Egypt’s Renaissance, which many believe presaged national independence and the republic, was a battle won since Mokhtar started work on the statue in 1919 while he was still in Paris, inspired by the 1919 Revolution. 

Abu Ghazi provides images tracing the history of the statue, which consists of a sphinx and a provincial young woman standing behind it and symbolises Egypt. He describes how it developed in Mokhtar’s mind and in reality, mentioning the political struggles it prompted and the life it took on in the collective imaginary. 

Early versions of the statue

The stages in which “Egypt’s Renaissance” as we know it came into being

Documents relating to the statue’s completion and echoes of the work in Egyptian society as well as high-profile gatherings: artists and statesmen including the leader of the 1919 Revolution and Wissa Bey Wassef with Mokhtar and his work

Egypt’s Renaissance

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