Hana Gamal's photography exhibition at D-CAF explores loss, love, memory

Ahram Online , Thursday 14 Oct 2021

Every evening from 1-22 October between 6pm and 10pm, in the nine small rooms of the Victoria Building Rooftop, visitors are invited to discover the photo exhibition Forgotten As If You Never Were by Hana Gamal.

Hala Gamal
(Photo: Mostafa Abdel Aty, D-CAF)

The terrace, recently fitted out by the Ismaïliya for Real Estate company, a partner of Downtown Contemporary Arts Festival (D-CAF), comes alive with the recorded voice of Mahmoud Darwish accompanying the exhibition.

Each of the rooms is reserved for a different installation of photos representing a part of the artist's memories or an aspect of her daily life. In this multilayered reconciliation that is both introspective and retrospective, certain details fade away as even the loved ones can be forgotten.
 
As the exhibition notes reveal, the photos drift "between reality and dream, the physical and the intangible, the unspoken and the expressed." They take visitors on a journey that "uncovers layer by layer the memories, experiences, and dreams that are half-invented, half-lived, or half-forgotten. Forgoten As If You Never Were is a personal and intimate exploration of loss, love, and memory -- the perpetual internal struggle and the overwhelming melancholy of forgetting or being forgotten leads to redefining the meaning of freedom."

Yet Gamal tries to capture the details and rehabilitate people close to her. She invites the viewers to experience with her the feelings of nostalgia and to pay attention to the daily minute details.

Sometimes it is a question of black and white photos or posters of Umm Kalthoum, at others she is inspired by proverbs or Quranic verses that she has captured on the walls of old houses and shops. Gamal also exhibits souvenir photos of a loved one who is no longer in our realm.

In one of the rooms, we see faces that she met in the city's public transport. A woman sits narrowing her eyes, fleeing from a difficult daily reality, as the vehicle rolls at full speed. In one work, she is placing her hand on the window, trying to catch some air, as if looking for hope. 

In another space, a large coloured photograph that showcases the sea welcoming summer covers the ceiling of an entire room, with two beach chairs placed in the room. Here we find children excited to play on the beach, adults diving into the water. The whole setting helps you smell the sea and enjoy the atmosphere as much as the protagonists of the photos do.

As time goes by, Darwish’s voice recedes, giving way to an Aragoz (Egyptian traditional clown puppet) song performed by Omar Sharif in one of his films. On the walls, old cardboard calendars and a yellowish copy of the daily Al-Akhbar newspaper evoke a sense of the passing years.

As we stroll across the room, we realise that, indeed, part of our history, of our life, is already forgotten.

The exhibition opened on 1 October together with the ninth edition of the D-CAF festival and runs through 22 October at Victoria Building Rooftop, Al-Shorbagi building on Abdel-Khaleq Tharwat Street, Downtown Cairo.

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