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Darb 17 18: 'Maspero'
Maspero, Egypt’s state TV building is no stranger to ridicule; for generations, its giant plump cluster of offices has been associated with an ailing government that gambles on partial media.
During the eighteen days that toppled former president Mubarak, protesters criticized the notorious establishment, often right at its doorstep. And as the fight for free press continues across Egypt’s squares, artists featured at Darb 17 18’s recent exhibit pay tribute to the last 50 years of forceful, faulty state indoctrination.
The first piece, titled Man Made, explores the notion of one’s outlook being obscured by an external force. Moataz Nasr Eldin juxtaposes an image of a young man blinkered with an eye patch with an image of a horse looking straight and steady, with its blinker tied around his eyes. The message is clear; Egyptian state media, like a blinker, has long tightened our visions, ensuring that we do not see the other side of any story.
Engy Ali’s Sanzaru portrays the absence of state media from the childhood of many Egyptians.
'I don’t remember what was usually on Wednesday night, and I don’t remember who I watched Friday shows with,' she says about her digital collage that duplicates an image of three chimps that can’t hear, see or smell.
Set against an abstract geometric background, the stifling of one’s senses is both powerful and comic, perhaps due to the chronic ineptness embodied in Maspero’s catalogue of broadcasts.
On the adjacent wall stands Adham Bakry’s Blueprint, a stark, sky-high mural stencilling the TV headquarters next to what looks like a map of its interior, in way of inviting someone to hijack the building, put an end to its unearned grandiose status and lift the shadow that it casted on Egyptians for decades.
In a series of sketches drawn on cardboard, Ali Abdel Mohsen, who is also the curator of the show, toys with the common belief that Maspero has long been regarded as the government’s mouthpiece, depicting both its anchors and the subjects invited on air as large megaphones.
While Khaled Hafez’s love-hate relationship with state media, capsulated in a video installation, ends silently with him watching news on mute with his two children, May El Hossamy’s affair is one with a concrete end: a grave titled Maspero 1960-2011. For both artists, the lies propagated by the Egyptian media are falling on deaf ears, but the question is when the rest of Egyptians will catch up.
Hanan Ghanem’s ‘Colourful Passion’ is the latest exhibition in Cairo to demonstrate that Egypt is not only brimming with talented artist, but that said artists form an eclectic and evolving scene.
Born in Alexandria in 1972, Ghanem graduated from the Faculty of Fine Arts Alexandria. Having held several solo and group exhibitions in Cairo and her hometown, her latest collection, 'Colourful Passion', displayed in Zamalek's Art Corner Gallery, explores a reflection of her identity with passionate colours and a world within a canvas.
While her inspiration for this particular exhibition was the January 25th revolution, 'Colourful Passion' conceives a notion of a force and vigour that woman – in the collective sense – reaps through adversity
Infusing an idea of female sentiment in all of her pieces, Ghanem’s paintings are all painted on large canvases, almost life-size.
Showing both struggle and beauty, her large canvases show faces of diverse women from different cultural backgrounds, reflecting expressive features and symbolic fine points using a combination of radiant and gloomy colours.
With exceptionally diverse imagery, Ghanem’s unique talent lies in her ability to create life-like narratives with a twist of illusion.
One of the larger canvases stood out, taking on a pitch-black background and sinister looking figures in natural colours. A large face with attractive Arabian features, piercing eyes detailed to the point where it feels like they’re staring back at the audience with an expression of grief.
Highlighting the borders of the piece was blue-azure smoke, portraying a spiritual essence. The whole piece was rather unnerving but flares with talent.
In another painting, her use of colour blasts more intense and passionate vibes featuring another engaging feminine character with ice-blue eyes. The face is eclipsed with dark shadows and vibrant shades of red and orange, giving a dramatic effect. While the piece itself is complex with details and outspoken with colours, it dominates the rest of her work and may slightly overshadow it.
Ghanem’s pieces combine intensity, beauty and a dramatic use of colours which all come together to make very individually-engaging artworks.