El Sawy Culturewheel: A Drop of Water for this Rose
Behind artist Mostafa Gebril’s wide smile and
twinkling eyes, there is a hint of pain.
This Palestinian-born painter, who relocated to Cairo in 1966 and hasn’t
been home in thirteen years, aches for the plight of his fellow nationals. His connection to their stories is the
inspiration behind his current exhibition entitled A Drop of Water on This Flower,
currently showing at El Sawy Culturewheel.
Mostafa Gebril’s path to painting was paved early in
life. Born in 1946 to an artistically
inclined family, his parents encouraged his creativity and talent. He would
later go on to study at the Faculty of Fine Arts, where the artist graduated
top of his class in 1972. Since
graduating, Gebril has further developed his politically motivated art, showing
in eight collaborative exhibitions and now, in his second solo effort.
A Drop of Water
on this Flower is an emotional exhibit portraying figures and scenes of
Palestinian suffering. Gebril utilizes several
mediums in each of his works, combining print-making, oil, acrylic and scraping
to achieve an intricate, layered effect that’s representative of the complex
issues facing Palestinians and the resulting associated emotions. The heartbreak
of his subjects is evident; themes of violence and imprisonment are present
throughout the exhibit. However, a sense of hope and determination prevails in
his work. A warm embrace between mother and child, a flower, even splashes of
bright colours prove that the artist is able to find beauty in the world despite
such tragic conditions.
Mostafa Gebril was kind enough to stroll through the
exhibit with us and speak about a few of his works. A piece entitled Martyred Mona Lisa immediately caught our
attention. The eye is first drawn to the
lower corner, where Da Vinci’s Mona Lisa
is used to portray iconic feminine beauty. Above her, a veiled woman holding a
mirror stretches her head up to the sky. The main subject represents a
Palestinian ‘everywoman,’ sacrificing superficial pleasure and vanity for
lasting beauty and peace. The splendour
of her sacrifice in the eyes of the artist makes this woman a real-life Mona
A clear message is found in another work, entitled Passport. A figure holds a Palestinian refugee
passport with an outstretched arm that spans the length of the painting. A censer with billowing smoke seems to burn
the arm of the subject, representing the treatment of Palestinians by the Arab
World. Along the top of the man’s arm, a
row of flags from around the globe represents the world’s response of simply
watching while the situation worsens.
A Drop of Water
on This Flower will hold different meaning for every viewer, especially in
light of its political nature. Undoubtedly, some may be moved by these images, while
others may find the art rather trite. However,
there is no doubt that the paintings are visually stimulating and filled with
meaning. The exhibit is showing at El Sawy Culturewheel’s World Hall, but only
until July 19th; so be sure to check it out soon.