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Helwa Ya Baladi Exhibition at Zamalek Art Gallery

Zamalek Art Gallery: Helwa Ya Baladi Exhibition

reviewed by
Katie Dryden
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Zamalek Art Gallery: Helwa Ya Baladi Exhibition

Zamalek Art Gallery is home to some of the most exquisite contemporary work by some of Egypt’s most prominent Artists with monthly exhibits throughout the year as well as several permanent collections. 

On our way in to attend the opening night, we found the entrance lit up with large, scented candles leading up the stairwell to mark the grand occasion and the space itself flooded with keen, art-thirsty onlookers.  To add to the formal panorama there was a delicate tray of bite-size salmon, cheese and cucumber sandwiches being served along with sweet beverages in elegant wine glasses.  

The astounding Rabab Nemr was born in 1938 in Alexandria. She graduated from the faculty of Fine Arts in 1963 and later went on to earn her PhD from the University of Madrid.  After completing a rich education in the Arts, Nemr participated in various worldwide exhibitions both group and solo, including: the Tito Museum in Yugoslavia, the Egyptian Cultural Centre in Paris and the Museum of Modern Art in Jordan.

‘Helwa Ya Baladi’ which translates to My Beautiful Country, is a colourful exhibition where the human dimension is a key feature within each piece displayed, along with other recurring elements such as fishermen and their boats; sea creatures and birds. These elements are possibly a representation of the artists’ own upbringing as she lived close to the sea as a child surrounded by these things which clearly spurred her on as an Artist. 

The overall settings are rich, sunny and vibrant yet the figures that are the centrepiece of each scene remain without clear or obvious expression, in fact, most of the time it’s not clear if they are males or females.  The sharp edges of the elements reveal a touch of cubism, while the lack of detail in these abstract constructions creates a child-like, cartoon effect.  The men’s faces appear to be built from rocks, roughly calved to show large beefy characters especially in the more political pieces which express the idea of politics and seriousness all the more. 

One particular piece which stands large and proud (120x200cm) shows a cluster of large, beefy men and women holding Egyptian flags and is believed to be a representation of the crowds standing united in the main squares during the events of January 25th.  The piece lacks colour except for the powerful red from the Egyptian flag which draws more attention on the still gaze of each figure within the piece.

Rabab Nemr uses coloured inks on paper though this is not apparent until a closer inspection is taken, only then is it possible to see the thousands of delicate lines and marks that makes up her images that are produced on such a grand scale.  Her style and technique demands much in terms of time and effort yet this only further illustrates the artists’ strong, unwavering passion of her subjects and of art itself.

Rabab Nemr is a phenomenal artist who contributes excessively to the contemporary art of Egypt.  Over the years she has obtained several prizes for her talent in drawing, along with the Jury Prize in the 8th Cairo International Biennale and in 2007 Nemr was awarded 1st Prize at the Alexandria International Biennale.   ‘Helwa Ya Baladi’ is a phenomenal exhibition which proudly represents the artistic talent in Egypt.

360 Tip

The exhibition is on display at the Zamalek Art Gallery until 11th May.

Best Bit

A riveting display of colourful, large scale work with beautiful, intricate details upon closer inspection.

Worst Bit

The opening night was very crowded.

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