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‘The Egypt I love…Immortal’ at Zamalek Art Gallery

Zamalek Art Gallery: ‘The Egypt I love …Immortal’ by Farghali Abdel Hafiz

reviewed by
Emily Wright
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Zamalek Art Gallery: ‘The Egypt I love …Immortal’ by Farghali Abdel Hafiz

Farghali Abdel Hafiz is an artist known for his representations of the world’s great cities including Paris, London and Istanbul, and now his current exhibition focuses on the study of his homeland with ‘The Egypt I love …Immortal’. Being held at Zamalek Art Gallery, the Egyptian born artist promises a celebration of Egypt as ‘pure adoration to the timeless, eternal Egypt, which does not die.’

Hafiz’s work searches for a unified Egyptian identity during these tumultuous times. In this collection, he aims to capture the personification of Egypt and to secure its place as Om El Donia – Mother of the world, cradle of civilization. To create this image, he draws upon a wide range of mediums and colour palettes that reflect the multi-faceted Egypt which has spanned civilisations. In a single piece, Hafiz places together a Pharaoh, a 50s celebrity and a mother figure, all of which combine to give an overview of his country and ultimately produce a strong, uplifting image.

The main subject in almost all of the pieces was a woman, or more often women, smiling knowingly at one another, while objects thate are representative of Egypt are cradled in their hands – a mosque, a bool or a relic of Downtown’s architecture, for example. These characters give an impression of Egypt as a motherly sustainer which is withstanding. Meanwhile, hidden about the canvas, eagle-eyed viewers will notice small black and white photographs, seemingly newspaper clippings, which predominantly depict a male face.  The contrast between these two mediums and the characters they display is very powerful, as in contrast to the giant bright smiling women, these photographs show an individual alone and contained, seemingly frozen in a time gone by. The suggestion here is that these cultural icons, as symbols of modernity, are quickly faded and relegated to a fixed time. In ‘Egyptian Romance’, one woman wears a string of these photographs as a necklace, suggesting that such images are fashionably attractive, but are only ever a token garnish on a timeless body.

The pieces are set apart from time, choosing not to focus on the chaotic Egypt of today, but instead presenting a montage of sand and river imagery which present an ‘eternal Egypt’ which refuses to be defined by the cityscapes it can be recognised for today. Situated in the center of Zamalek’s buzz, Hafiz’s collection provides a healthy reminder that Egypt goes further than Cairo’s boundaries.

The mediums used in the collection make it a very rich visual experience as the artist works experimentally with a range of tactile materials, including clumped oil paint, paper and sand-based cement which forms a vivid reminder of Egypt’s desert landscape. Water, specifically the Nile, is also an important motif in the collection, and through these elemental depictions of Egypt, the viewer is invited to see the bare bones of this country – as it has geographically stood for millennia, ‘immortal’.

The exhibition presents a devotional collection of pieces which provokes a timely re-examination of the country’s identity, particularly for those caught up in Egypt’s newly born cityscapes.

360 Tip

The hidden photographs intersperced throughout the pieces are great fun to spot, and make for a super game of I-spy.

Best Bit

A refreshing vision of Egypt - you come out feeling like you've just spent a week aboard a falluca on Aswan's stretch of the Nile.

Worst Bit

An Egyptian viewer may have been better placed to identify the characters in the photos and more explaination would have been helpful for international fans.

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