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Sunday, 16 May 2021

Akhmim and Hegaza in Cairo with their colourful talents

Akhmim in Sohag is reputed for its colourful textile and needle work, while Hegaza in Qena is known nationwide for its woodwork

Amira Noshokaty , Saturday 28 Nov 2020
red canvas
Photo credit amira noshokaty
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On the premises of the Association of Upper Egypt for Education and Development (AUEED), the walls of the ground floor are beaming with many a vibrant colourful hand-stitched canvas. On the top floor lies the enchanting land of woodwork -- all handmade.

red canvas
Photo credit amira noshokaty

This is the annual exhibition of Akhmim and Hegaza, (26 November-10 December), and these are the two most famous Egyptian villages for their creative handicrafts. Akhmim in Sohag is reputed for its colourful textile and needle work, while Hegaza in Qena is known nationwide for its woodwork.

red canvas
Photo credit amira noshokaty

The annual exhibition in Cairo is usually an enchanting event where visitors get to see indigenous creativity in action. From canvas to table wear, from bags to mugs, the Akhmim colours fill the air with hope and livelihood. These textiles document the authentic rituals and traditions of Upper Egypt. Daily life rituals, and a lot of Egyptian intangible heritage, are reflected in the colourful canvas.

red canvas
Photo credit amira noshokaty

According to the book titled Stories of women of Akhmim, written by Lola Laham in 2018, Akhmim was the capital of the ninth sector in Ancient Egypt and was named after the god of fertility Mein. In Coptic Egypt it was called Khamin, and in 1527 AD it was called Akhmim. Since ancient times Akhmim has been known for its marvellous textile, skilful needle work, and signature motifs that date back to ancient and Coptic Egypt. One of its specialties was the Kabaty (Coptic) textile -- Egypt’s finest.

red canvas
Photo credit amira noshokaty

Hegaza is named after Al-Hijaz (Land of Islamic pilgrimage), because it was one of the main stops on the pilgrimage route to Mecca. The villagers have for long mastered handmade woodwork. Such variety of ornaments are quite impressive because each item is hand-carved from one wood log. The type of wood used is that of “Al-Sersaw” which has all shades of brown in each log. The results are impressive.

Building on such legacy, the AUEED, first established in 1940, managed to safeguard the intangible heritage of Akhmim and Hegaza villages, among other villages, by encouraging the indigenous artists to pass on their crafts to their children, as well as supporting and marketing their products.

red canvas
Photo credit amira noshokaty

“This is the work of my mother,” boasted Nagla Taha, a young artist from Akhmim. “She depicts the epic of Abu Zeid El-Helaly in her work,” she explained to Ahram Online.

Taha remembers how she and her sister joined the handicraft programme in the AUEED after they had completed their education 10 years ago. Pointing at one of her artworks, she said “this is the view from my father’s house, we used to wait for him by the window and watch him come home on the ferry boat.”

red canvas
Photo credit amira noshokaty

Amal Elia has been practising her needle artwork for the past 11 years. “I took the craft after my mother. As a child, I used to watch and learn from her."

Elia said that in addition to their traditional sceneries, the artists are inspired by their trips outside their village.

Innovation comes easily to creative hands, indeed. Scenes from pottery-makers from Tunis village in Fayoum were on display.

“Here I depicted the Bedouin woman and how she works as much as her husband," noted Taha.

The exhibition opens daily from 10 am to 8 pm on the premises of AUEED, 65 El-Qobessi Street, Al-Dhaher, Cairo   

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