The Definitive Guide to Living in the Capital , Cairo , Egypt

Graffiti Artistoys

Graffiti Artistoys: Nostalgic Custom Toys in Maadi

  • 28D Road 232
  • 11am to 7pm Sunday to Thursday, 11am to 3:30pm Friday -
reviewed by
Marcus Benigno
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Graffiti Artistoys: Nostalgic Custom Toys in Maadi

Sometimes life can be
bit of a drag: day in and day out at a nine-to-five only to come home to a
television streaming a continuous feed of the ensuing apocalypse.

Five years ago, in
what she describes as her mid-life crisis, Catalina Constain bailed out on the
monotony of a conventional life, and the Spanish dentist moved to Cairo to
dedicate herself to something that naturally brightens our faces: toys!

She with her Colombian husband Eduardo Ortiz
and Egyptian artist Elhamy Naguib opened the Graffiti Artistoys in Maadi three years ago,
making us wonder, “Where have we been?”

The gallery, shop and atelier is a circus
of toys for all ages: airplanes hover over a showroom of harlequin characters, magical creatures
and wacky faces painted on puppets, dolls and figurines,
piñatas, tambourines, model houses and transports of sorts; and its ring leaders
are just as colourful.

back and forth from their native Spanish to English, Catalina and Eduardo
eagerly showed us their creations made from recyclables.

is recycled,” Catalina tells us as she points at giraffe made from an old
wrapping tube and a soda can.

“Even I am recycled!” Eduardo adds.

Much too often, crafts made from recyclables
look like crafts made from recyclables. But at Graffiti, you couldn’t tell unless
someone squealed. Some pieces are made from old bottles, cans and gizmos, and
others are made from scrap wood and paper. But each piece is handmade and one
of a kind and its prices reflect.

Graffiti blurs the line that distinguishes
a toy from a work of art (‘Artistoys’), with pieces starting at 50LE. The most expensive
toy at 2,000LE is a sturdy, blue and orange horse made from wood and papier-mâché
that we happily straddled for giggles.

Aside from its selection of toys, the shop also
sells original paintings and prints by Elhamy. Through
his acrylics, Elhamy commentates on his life and captures Egypt’s changing
history. In one series, he depicts traditional dresses from different parts of
Egypt that are now out of use.

“So you look at a dress like that and you
can write a long history both as roots and surroundings. So I’m fascinated with
recording my time because if you go there now, it’s no longer there,” he says.

The peppy trio also offers toy workshops by
reservation or every Saturday, as well as drawing classes on Mondays for kids
and adults at 90LE per one-hour session.

“Everyone thinks that art has this big halo
and that only people with talent can do it. It’s not true. It’s a matter of
practice and throwing yourself into it and we prove that. People come in and
look at a toy and they say it’s very hard to do, but no it’s not hard, just
come down and we’ll show you how to do it,” Elhamy says.

Whether you’re an adult-sized kid or a
kid-sized adult, Graffiti Artistoys invites us to schedule
a play date and relive a childhood that a kid could only wish for.

360 Tip

Join a workshop and create your own artistoy.

Best Bit

The shop and gallery nurses us back to a colourful childhood we wish we had.

Worst Bit

Pricey toys, but one of a kind.

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