Sunday,24 February, 2019
Current issue | Issue 1123, 22-28 November 2012-
Sunday,24 February, 2019
Issue 1123, 22-28 November 2012-

Ahram Weekly

Out of the box

‫C‬artoonist Hassan Fedawi tells Rania Khallaf about the workshop he recently held in Alexandria

Al-Ahram Weekly

The Goethe Institute in Alexandria, in collaboration with Alexandria University’s Faculty of Fine Arts (FFA), recently organised a “creative caricature” workshop named simply “Out of the Box” — something that doesn’t happen half as often as it should even though it is of exceptional value. With 22 FFA students participating, the workshop was given by Hassan Fedawi, an established cartoonist and associate professor at the FFA, with Friederike Gross, also an established German cartoonist.
Born in 1956, Gross graduated from the State Academy of Fine Arts, Stutgart in 1989. Four years before her graduation, she embarked on a remarkable career as a cartoonist for the Stuttgarter Zeitung. Since 2008, Gross has started a new — academic — career, teaching drawing at the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology in Zurich.
The aim of the workshop was to expose the selected young artists to a multicultural environment to and to let them benefit from the professional skills of well-established cartoonists. The workshop was not strictly academic; it involved discussions on humor and and stances that evoke jokes. The workshop also included free drawing sessions of unconventional topics, including comic situations that took place during the workshop. The students were given space to illustrate their own bodies, for example. Working freely, with absolutely no red lines, the students quickly produced striking figures and illustrations, including such risqué images as that of female buttocks adorned with flowers.
“I was concerned how Gross and I could co-operate in such a workshop, especially since we are from different cultures,” Fedawi says, explaining that “coming from an academic background was a great asset for both of us and further created a common ground. It was very encouraging that Professor Gross was impressed with the performance of those talented young artists.”
Gross also noticed some similarities between her students in Switzerland and the Egyptian students concerning technique, adding, however, “You are very warm here.”
Asked to talk about the theme of “Out of the Box” and to what extent it was reflected in the outcome of the workshop, Fedawi proved loquacious: “Out of the box is a common expression among creative people. It means: think differently, reverse the way you build ideas and examine your preconceived ideas about things and people. There should be no barrier between the artist and his audience. All things can be expressed within the framework of reason and respect. Even dirty words or nudity, used in context, will look great. The artist can choose and filter his themes, based on their cultural values and self-understanding; they can give the viewer a different level of awareness.
“At the end of the workshop students were very enriched visually and with new ideas, very eager to express themselves in new formats. It was very hard to control this incredible stream of ideas after the third day, and I am sure this workshop will give the students a huge push forward. I will quote from three assisting teachers who participated in this workshop: ‘In this five-day workshop we learned more about art than we learned in five years at the FFA.’ I believe such creative workshops are necessary for students to unlock the boundaries of creativity, created by social or religious circumstances. I want to add one last word of deep appreciation, love and respect to the Goethe Institute for such great support and especially for Wisam Ibrahim, the director of the library at the centre, because without her support and hard work we couldn’t have anything done.”
And about Gross:
“Gross is a non-typical person. She is easy-going, smiling all the time and open to any new ideas, suggestions or questions . She tried very hard to overcome any would-be issues. Students, you know, love foreigners and are very flexible about adopting and analysing hard topics openly and freely. They worked very hard to explore Gross’s point of view. It was a great blend. Although we had a very tight schedule as we worked for nine hours per day, I managed to accompany her to some historical sites in Alexandria, too. She amazed all of us of her deep knowledge of Egyptian history; after all she is a political cartoonist.”
And the art of caricature in Egypt:
“I have a dream to see my students feel equal to their European counterparts with regard to educational services. Many of my graduate students work for the most prestigious design firms, newspapers; among them is the renowned young cartoonist Doaa Al-Adel, one of the best in Egypt. I dream of a creative educational atmosphere in the FFA and big smiles on the students’ faces. As a cartoonist, I hope my students will liberate themselves from the shackles of poverty and censorship, and be more courageous creating and developing their ideas. I also dream of establishing the first International Cartoon Contest, to be named after Tahrir Square.”

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