May 31, 2007

Abdel Badie

The Gezira Art center is currently displaying Abdel Badie sculptures.
Abdel Badie Abdel Hay was found killed in his atelier in Old Cairo quarter on July 5th 2004 at the age of 88. He had been killed by two youngsters under influence who thought that they would find no resistance in such an old man and a lot of money in such a well known artist home. That was the fate of the boy who was born in 1916 in a village of Minieh.

Abdel Badie started working as a cook in the early 30's in Malawi. His talent as a sculptor appeared later when he tried to join the Egyptian Royal army he was beaten by the British officer in charge after he complained about his being turned down. In a moment of rage he found his path, while playing with a bone doing his first sculpture "Private Abdel Badie" where he portrayed himself beating the offending officer.
He only stopped sculpting when he lost most of his eyesight in the 90's.

In the early 40's he was drawn to the attention of fellow Miniawi Hoda Shaarawi (incidentally nominated as one of the 30 most influential women of the last millenium), who sensing a great talent decided to take him as a cook in her house in Cairo.
While in Cairo nearer to the capital's lights, he started exhibiting in sculpting competitions, being often chosen by the different juries as a winner.
At the death of his benefactor, he opted to go for a couple of years to learn sculpting from the Pharaonic masters in Luxor instead of the Academie in Paris.

When he came back to Cairo, he started executing statues for other artists.
1956 was a bad year, for in spite receiving the honorary prize for the Afro-Asian exhibition, he was incapacitated in a work accident, leading him into a different approach to sculpture , turning to the less exhausting reliefs on Gypsum boards that consist of his series called "the complaints".
In 1973, he was granted the medal of Science and Art by Anwar El Sadat.

May 26, 2007

The Force

Celebrating the 30th birthday of the Star wars saga, the US Postal service has issued a series of stamps. A lot of changes happened since the Hoax that started as a politically motivated civil disobedience. Back then in 2001 , a little bit more than 70 thousands Australians claimed to follow the Jedi ways, also the same year Jedi Knights gained official recognition as a religion in the UK. Nowadays, through browsing one can find "A Short History of the Jedi Movement" , an Islamic interpretation of the Jedi creed.

Jediists , if this is how they are called have also launched a website complete with forum and chat rooms.

May the Force be with them !!!!!

Nonetheless, I believe that the set of stamps will be cherished by stamps collectors all over the world. They will want them as mint and as used. One more reason for the hype to roll on.

May 20, 2007


In the Cairo Private Modern art scene, apart from the inevitable Town House gallery which was until recently the only one with a website and although I gladly acknowledge the elegance and the simplicity of their web page, I did not penetrate it because they ask for personal information before letting you in, they also offer you the chance of becoming one of their friends with special treatment promised and discounts on buys for just under a hundred dollars . I'd rather spend those though on something else. Nowadays though Karim Francis Art Gallery has a flashy (in the sense it includes lot of flash animation) but slightly empty and boring website courtesy of his new project funded by the European Community and alternatively the Prince Claus Foundation, whom took the wise decision to underline that the contents of the exhibition "are the sole responsibilities of the curator, participating artists and contributors, and can under no circumstances be regarded as reflecting the position of the European Union. "

The exhibition pamphlet states that :
Twenty artists from Egypt have been commissioned by Karim Francis to create works of art surrounding the theme of Occidentalism, driven by the question How do you see the West?
Stemming from regular meetings and discussions on the subject that began in April 2006, Occidentalism is a body of contemporary Egyptian art first exhibited in Cairo in May 2007, accompanied by open forums with participating artists, evenings of music and a panel discussion.
As of 2008, the exhibition will travel to various museums of international cities."

Incidentally the name in Arabic translates as "An eye on the West" , that's dangerous they could be accused of spying. Even more so since there are a few openings in Guantanamo, for the inmate positions that is.

The twenty artists include stars such as Adel El Siwi, and Mohamed Abla, a plethora of established artists featuring between others Hazem El Mestekawi, Huda Lutfi, Shadi El Noshakaty, Hisham El Zeiny, Khaled Hafez, Amal Kenawy, Lara Baladi, Ahmad Nosseir and an array of personal choices of the curator.

According to Wikipedia , Orientalism mainly refers to the study by western scholars of the languages, cultures and people of the near and far east during the 18th and 19th centuries. Wikipedia in its entry does not refer to the 20th century. In a sense by then the concept of Orientalism had lost its raison d'etre.

Wikipedia does go on to say that Orientalism can sometimes refer to the imitation or depiction of aspects of Eastern cultures in the West by writers, designers and artists.

It is therefore possible to believe that Occidentalism would be either the study by eastern scholars of languages, cultures and people of the near and far west (I love John Wayne) or that it could also refer to the imitation or depiction of aspects of Western cultures in the East by writers, artists and designers.

Finally, some logic is invading the Cairo Art Scene. There is after all such a thing as intellectual djihad.

Unfortunately a piece of the puzzle is lost on them, if Orientalism ceased to exist by the early XXth century , then by now Occidentalism should also have ceased to exist. We are now into a different ball game called "Globalization". Maybe it is time for some to sink it in.

The exhibition though is a must see as it is on for a few more days. The "Pension Suisse" is an amazing space. The views from its different balconies are quite a thing. The building is amazing. It also feels good and new to have an artistic squat in Cairo, even if it is a very temporary one. the exhibition ends on May 23rd after an electro- jam session (whatever that means). It is open from 10 to 10.

There is also a few interesting efforts in the lot.

The image above has nothing to do with the exhibition, it is just a thing I did while having fun.