Second annual International Handicrafts Show exhibits a truly creative Egypt

Amira Noshokaty , Wednesday 22 Nov 2017

The event brings unique artisans from across the country to Cairo's Nasr City

photo: Amira El-Noshokaty

As you walk into the International Handicrafts Show, a wave of vivid colors, various materials and authentic flair greets the heart, a sight that really shows off the impeccable talents of Egyptian hands.

Initially the brainchild of AlexBank's corporate social responsibility platform, Ibdaa Men Masr ("Creativity from Egypt"), the initiative includes over 30 handicraft-affiliated bodies from all over the country. This year Alex Bank stands as a strategic partner with the Egyptian Export Council for Handicrafts. Together with the other stakeholders, they present a very promising and artistic face of Egypt in an exhibition that is organized down to its finest details with lots of love.

IHS this year showcases hundreds of Egyptian artists whose work reflects fine taste and rich cultural diversity. From Nubia to the Oasis, from the Delta to Upper Egypt, the products and their makers greet the eye with generosity, warmth and beauty that echo the famous poet Fouad Haddad's verses "Always remember, Egypt is Beautiful."

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photo: Amira El-Noshokaty

photo: Amira El-Noshokaty

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photo: Amira El-Noshokaty

Out of the many talents of the show, Al-Ahram Online highlights some special ones.

Bedaya ("Beginning") art store is none other than a visual display of a cheerful and floral view of the world. Featured are numerous paintings in bright orange and yellow of a sun that blooms like a flower, reflecting the motto of the store: "Regardless of your disability, you are still able." Bedaya was started in 2011 by Christian Ananian, an Egyptian-Armenian whose special needs bloomed into inspiring cheerful paintings. Together with Sameh Shawky and Alain Asfar, his friends also with special needs, they combined their artistic talents. In the leaflet provided with art purchases, Christian leaves an inspiring note: "No one is perfect. Every human being has certain abilities and also disabilities. I think that you should never let your disabilities prevent you from doing whatever you wish to do. Search for people around you that can help you cross any obstacles in your everyday life, by using their abilities along with yours. We complete each other."

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photo: Amira El-Noshokaty

Elsewhere at the show, with a passionate grip, Amal Mansour's hands were testing the stone before carving it into one of her ornaments. "The stone dictates what I should carve," she laughs, as she explains her immense happiness that she is part of IHS. Though a fine arts graduate of Helwan University, Mansour pursued her artistic passion only seven years ago. She was raised and lives in Dakhla Oasis and hence all her sculptures reflect her oasis.

"This is the first time for me to join an exhibition, and I am so happy and moved by people's appreciation of my art," she smiled while fighting back tears.

Next to her is artist Adel Mahmoud, an indigenous artist also from Al-Dakhla Oasis. Mahmoud's passion is to carve statues out of wood. The excess palm wood joining palm leafs to the tree is especially light. With his skilled hands he explains how he has been working on his art for many years.

Osama Ghazali is also among the many shining stars at the show, however his talent is to connect all the talented handicraft artists of Egypt in one place. This grand effort manifested into two things. First, Yadawya, the store for fair-trade Egyptian handmade gifts and craft, and secondly, the revival of handicrafts in Egypt through workshops. Ghazali has also initiated Egypt's first Handicraft Atlas, which features a reference map of Egypt's artisans and their works throughout the country. Awarded the Synergos Social Innovator Award (Pioneer of Egypt Program) in 2013, Ghazali's efforts to empower indigenous folk handicraft artists in Egypt are clearly evident in Yadawya with its multiple folk creations.

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photo: Amira El-Noshokaty

The sound of running water comes from pottery ware bearing picaresque images. Against a background of whirling dervishes and Nubian singing troupes, sits an olas (traditional clay jug) and barrel-shaped chairs, all made of clay. "Turathna ("Our Heritage"), is our project to protect and develop pottery making in Fustat and Old Cairo," explained Mohamed Morsi, sales representative of Al-Fares Al-Nabil, a non-profit association for development first established in 2012.

The promising two year-old "Turathna" project has managed to enhance the capacity of 150 pottery workshops and empower the potters with new tools to help them save time and focus more on their creativity. An automated clay wheel and more eco-friendly ovens were provided by the association to local artisans. A potters' syndicate was established in recent months thanks to the association's efforts to unite the endeavors and dreams of these artisans in the oldest pottery market in Cairo, El-Fustat.

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photo: Amira El-Noshokaty

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photo: Amira El-Noshokaty

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photo: Amira El-Noshokaty

The International Handicrafts Show runs till Friday, 24 of November

Location: Ard Al-Maard, Salah Salem Street, Madinet Nasr (Nasr City), Cairo

Time: Daily from 10 am to 10 pm


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