Although it’s one of the smallest art gallery spaces in Cairo, Safarkhan in Zamalek never disappoints with its new and exciting art exhibitions. This month, the gallery is hosting the work of Gamal Meleka. Meleka was born in Egypt but has spent most of his adult life in Italy, where he is a well-known and established contemporary artist. After having various exhibitions throughout Europe, his work can now be admired in Egypt for the first time. His current exhibition ‘Metamorphosis’ is a crossing of phenomena connecting Italian and Egyptian culture, according to Meleka himself.

Around 25 pieces are on display at Safarkhan at the moment. Most of the paintings show scenes at the Giza plateau; the pyramids and especially the sphinx are recurring themes. Most pieces have only the basic colours of red, blue and yellow and are topped off with gold. The use of gold leaf is very distinctive in Meleka’s work; it gives a dynamic and glamorous element to the paintings. Most of the pieces are somewhat the same with the sphinx in the foreground and the pyramids behind it.

There are also paintings of people in front of the pyramids. The figures are drawn in silhouettes; so their features and facial expressions are indiscernible. Also, it’s unclear what purpose these figures serve in the paintings other than adding a human element. Some of the works carry individual figures; others display groups, including children and babies. In the paintings of people posing with the pyramids, the objects aren’t always displayed in the correct order. Sometimes you see a tiny pyramid popping up on the side and some of the pyramids are actually drawn over the figures.

This reviewer found the paintings of the Sphinx and Pyramids a little tacky; possibly because of the gold trim that is typical of souvenir prints sold at tourist spots. The connection between Italian and Egyptian culture addressed by Meleka wasn’t very clear to us. Instead; we found most pieces to be explicitly Egyptian. If you have change to spare, most of the displayed paintings are priced at around 30,000LE.

In this reviewer’s opinion, the best paintings are the ones of the figures and the pyramids. After months of being saturated with revolutionary art exhibitions and projects, we’re happy to see the return of classic art themes.