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Zamalek Art Gallery: Gamal Al Sagini Exhibition
Gamal Al Sagini was very nationalistic and incredibly passionate about his home country, Egypt – and its people. Having been born in 1917 and dying aged 60 in 1977, Sagini lived through, and was inspired by, many historical events. His sculptures are generally large and abstract, made out of bronze, portraying many messages in the intricate detailing.
In 1969, when Gamal Al Sagini felt he was not getting enough recognition for his work, he threw some of his work into the Nile as an act of rebellion, claiming that if people cared, they would stop him. This certainly got him noticed and we're glad not all of his work was swept away.
The events of the Suez crisis in 1956 are represented by a tall, thin sculpture titled 'Port Said', completed in 1957. The front of this sculpture is a tall man wearing a traditional, long galabeya brandishing a gun above his head to signify the brutality of the war. There are also a number of descending parachutes in the sky above him to represent those used by soldiers involved in the conflict. Using the entire 3D model as canvas in itself, Sagini used the rear side of the sculpture to further depict the Israeli attack on Egypt, with the Star of David prominent amongst other emotive illustrations. An eagle-headed man stands at the base of the statue, with his arms outstretched signifying the freedom and power of the Egyptian land.
Another significant sculpture was one dedicated to the internationally recognised Egyptian singer, Om Kalthoum. It's a beautiful and detailed statue that was obviously created with a lot of care. Her body is made up of chunky triangles etched with Aztec patterns, glinting with the shine from the bronze. Her importance and popularity was prominent throughout Sagini's life and we assume that this, and her meaningful music, led to the sculpting of her almost shrine-like piece. Although we didn't immediately recognise this piece as Om Kalthoum, once we did it made sense that, judging by Sagini's patriotism, he would admire such a strong and iconic woman.
There are also numerous other sculptures on show, with significant stories behind each one. For example, a sculpture of a mother and baby entwined symbolises the gift of motherhood and the importance of nurture. His piece named 'The Nile' personifies the river into a wise, old bearded man, giving it a mythical feel.
Because little information on his sculptures is offered at the exhibition, Sagini's work requires visitors to carry out their own research. We're glad we did as it helped to uncover an eye-opening, opinionated and interesting history, confirming that each piece was an important outlet of expression for Gamal El Sagini himself.
Located in a relatively hushed side street in the ever picturesque Zamalek area, Safarkhan Art Gallery has always been a leader in its field, hosting exhibitions for Egypt’s most prominent artists and just generally being a must-go for all Cairene connoisseurs of the arts.
All throughout the next month, till the 27th of February, the gallery is displaying the works of one of Egypt’s most talented and renowned artists, the late Dr. Salah Abdel Kerim, including some never-before seen pieces. His works, which range from oil paintings to felt-tip portraits to shaded landscapes and theatrical sets to wooden and wrought iron sculptures all suggest surrealist muses.
Being one of the most established names of modern art in Egypt, Salah Abdel Kerim’s works have attracted a lot of local as well as global praise due to his use of several diverse mediums in his art and his versatility. Some of the national and international prizes the creative artist received include the San Vito Romano prize in painting and the prize for sculpture at the Biennale of Alexandria, as well as an honorary distinction in sculpture in Saint Paolo in 1959.
On display front and center in the gallery is his most famous, award-winning sculpture ‘The Cry of the Beast’, which was featured in Rene Huyghe’s book Art and Man alongside the works of Picasso and Muller - the former being an obvious source of inspiration and admiration. Visitors can also get a first-hand look at his design wirk, done in collaboration with Salah Jahin, in celebration of Cairo’s first millennium. His illustrations for Al Ahram newspaper can also be seen hanging on the walls of the gallery’s top floor, as do some of his drawings of landscapes.
Some of the other truly breath-taking pieces currently being shown at the gallery include Abdel Kerim’s owl sculptures, and the different décors he put together for theatrical productions.
Dr. Salah Abdel Kerim’s works are, without a doubt, some of the most striking in Egyptian art history thanks to his skill, creativity, talent and openness to experiment with countless methods and materials. Rarely does a single exhibition capture such a wide range of one single artist’s work like this one does. As a collection, the links between Abdel Kerim’s inspirations and style are obvious and the whole exhibition flows.