On 17 November, Shaaban Mohamed Abbas, one of the most prominent sculptors on the Egyptian contemporary art scene, passed away from a stroke.
"About five years ago, he suffered from a stroke and had amnesia for two months after," Mohamed Abbas, his cousin and a fellow artist, said. "But he got back on track five months later."
Abbas was born on 7 November 1969 in a village in Fayoum called Senors. He graduated from high school in Fayoum and received a bachelors degree in sculpting from the University of Fine Arts of Helwan. "In our village, we always made shapes with mud," his cousin said, "so the art of sculpting was engraved in us from an early age." He added that Shaaban Abbas was always one to help out his peers in art classes at school.
After graduation, Abbas joined the army, and then lived in Cairo. When he got married around six years ago he moved back to Fayoum to his family's home. He had two children, Karim, a five-year-old boy and Essam, a 10-month old baby.
Despite his young age, Abbas made a great contribution to the fine arts scene in Egypt. He won the jury prize in the Egyptian biennale in 2003 and participated in several art salons for youth. He also participated in the Aswan Symposium in 2002, 2003 and 2004.
His sculpture for which he won the biennale is currently at the Gezira Art Centre in Zamalek.
"His sculpting style had a poetic-surrealist touch," said Ahmed Abd El-Aziz, head of the Sculpting Department at the University of Fine Arts. "He was a very reflective person."
Mohammed Talaat, director of Palace of Arts at the Opera House, said that his works resembled him. "The bodies he sculpted were rough, well-built and had muscles, which were similar to his own body."
Other than sculpting, Abbas liked to write poetry. "His poetry was very dark and [sometimes] depressing," said Talaat. "But he also liked to sing and impersonate actors."
Colleagues and friends described Shaaban Abbas as quiet and sensitive. "He was a very humble person, which is something very hard to find in an artist," said Mohamed El-Allway, professor at the University of Fine Arts.
"He got offered jobs in the Gulf with high pay but he refused them and preferred to concentrate on his art," his cousin said. "He never let anyone down, and helped out his family and friends whenever they were in need," he said.
His friends are hoping to establish a gallery in his memory featuring his work, but there are no certain plans yet.