Saturday,22 September, 2018
Current issue | Issue 1183, (6 - 12 February 2014)
Saturday,22 September, 2018
Issue 1183, (6 - 12 February 2014)

Ahram Weekly

A message of peace

Nagwa El-Ashri celebrates art in Sharm Al-Sheikh

Al-Ahram Weekly

Thanks to the joint initiative of the ministries of foreign affairs, culture and tourism the first international Sharm Al-Sheikh Biennale (28 November-8 December 2013, with the exhibition at the Royal Sonesta Hotel ongoing until March 2014). Founded by General Khaled Fouda, the governor of South Sinai, Hesham Ali, the president of the Investors Association in Sharm Al-Sheikh, Mohamed Nader Hesham, the CEO of Sonesta Hotels, the event honoured, among others, Ahmad Fouad Selim, Fatma Ismail, Kamal Al-Mallakh and Ibrahim Abdel-Malak.

The event showcased the work of 48 artists (33 from Italy, eight from Egypt, four from the UK and one from Romania, Greece and Switzerland each). In itself the choice of this magic city of peace was a major achievement. It was a message to the world about peace and culture in Egypt despite the security breakdown ongoing since 2011, especially in Sinai. As Fouda put it in the opening speech, it was a the perfect cooperation between culture and tourism to promote peace and tolerance across the world. Likewise Minister of Culture Mohammed Saber Arab, who emphasised the role of culture in tourism at a time of rebuilding and hope. Salah Al-Meligi, the head of the Plastic Arts Department, said the fact that Sharm Al-Sheikh could host such an event was a powerful message. The founding of the biennale, he said, was a sincere and serious attempt to put forward a collective picture of Egyptian civilisation. Ali Al-Halawani, the Egyptian Consul in Milano, Italy, stressed the role of cultural diplomacy and soft power in the war against terrorism, while Gamal Melieka, the Commissar of the biennale, said the principal aim of the event is to generate insight and dialogue on the present conditions of the country. To show the world how safe Egypt is, he said, participating artists completed their projects in public places throughout the city.

Such large group exhibitions afford an opportunity to see a variety of schools and approaches, and the Sharm Al-Sheikh Biennale was no exception. Yet this event was not so much a biennale as a workshop or symposium, since artists were invited to produce their works in Sharm Al-Sheikh in preparation for an exhibition (ongoing now). It was nonetheless a heroic feat on the part of everyone involved, especially Melieka, considering the success of the event and the very high standards of the finished products. Despite the influence of the natural environment in Sharm Al-Sheikh on the artists, most produced their usual works. The Egyptian artist Mohammed Al-Meslemani, for example, was as much in the thrall of ancient Egyptian art as he has ever been. Many of the Italian artists are remarkable. The Syrian-Italian Achille Cuardini, for example, employs architecture, geometry and calligraphy to produce a magic impression. The Italian Ellen Spada produces abstract expressionist landscapes, while the Egyptian Assem Abdel-Fattah deals with the indigenous Egyptian environment. Dina Fadel, another Egyptian, presents scenes from daily life on the Egyptian street in a somewhat abstract expressionist style. As for the Romanian artist Gabriela Bodin, she provides her own take on the genre of the portrait.

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