Sufism and art: Amr Fekry

Farah Montasser, Sunday 3 Jun 2012

Egyptian photographer Amr Fekry reflects on Egypt's Islamic, Coptic, and ancient identities in his new book 'Holy of Holies'

holy of holies

As he celebrates the release of his first photography book,  Egyptian photographer Amr Fekry describes himself as a traditional and non-traditional artist who hopes to connect with the beauties of the ancient world and share these experiences with the public.

After graduating from the Cairo University faculty of arts in 2001, Fekry spent a year searching for true beauty, and during this time he found Sufism, which has become an essential part of his identity and a major feature of his work.

Sufism is the essence of Islam. Sufis are often known as the dervishes or the people of the truth whose spirituality, modisty and refraining from materiallism inorder to purify their souls in search of the utmost truth, have and continues to attract millions of followers.

"Through Sufism I realised my true senses and intellect," he says. "I acknowledged the true language of religion, unlike the traditional sense of religion we are exposed to from childhood. I rediscovered I had some spiritual talents as well," he explains.

He admires Islamic architecture, especially mosques built in the Fatimid era inspired by Sufi numerology and shapes.

"I kept taking photos of such buildings and my belief grew," he smiles as he recalls his journey of self-discovery. Fekry held several photo exhibitions of the Turkish Dervishes where he encouperated Sufi poetry in his composition.

"I tend to question the true relationship between the creator and the created, which is based on love rather than fear of punishment or pursuit of reward," Fekry states.

According to Fekry, Sufism has no boundaries and no limitations. "I use figurines as many Sufi artists and architects did in the past. Figures of people and animals tend to build belief in God and strengthen it as well. This was seen in Egypt during the Fatimid era, for example," he says. 

Fekry admires ancient Egypt and he has also applied this in his art. "In art, I am inspired by ancient Egyptian art," he says.

"Sufism introduces interaction between one's self by speaking to the human brain," he says.

Its ideas and teachings are witnessed in our daily life and tend to change by the hour and produce something different and exciting each day, according to Fekry.

Learning a different lesson each day brings a new colour, and pattern to our daily living, says Fekry and it is this concept that shapes or identifies his art.

"I spent five years of my life delving into nature and taking photographs of the world around me before I started making art and exhibiting my work," he tells Ahram Online.

He also visited galleries to see modern art but could not relate to what he saw.

"I always felt that it didn't reflect Egyptian society… Yes I have seen new concepts, techniques, and taken inspiration, but I've never found it reflecting on the regular Egyptian or addressing him," he says, and that is why he found Sufism and his own version of Islamic art that relates to the Egyptian identity.

Being a Sufi has given Fekry another characteristic as well. He initially works for himself without any intention of exhibiting his work. "To produce art, I target myself first," he says.

Instead of having deadlines and exhibition dates and schedules, "I wander around in search of beauty and more natural interactions that inspire me," he explains.

Fekry holds frequent exhibitions but without boundaries. "I keep exhibiting what I want, when I want," he tells Ahram Online.

It is the method he finds best to critically value his art and later on publically display what he believes worthy. "Not all of my work has been exhibited, but all that matters is that I am pleased with what I do," he comments.

In 2004, Fekry completed his graduate studies in Zurich, where he devoted himself to finding himself and acknowledging his space and surroundings. "Zurich is very systematic and financial and it's where I discovered my own space," he states.

He translated his experience into Holy of Holies, a book about his art using his Sufi methods. "The first part of the book is somewhat inspired by my experience in Zurich in which I translate my own time and space in this modern city into art," he recalls.

By looking at the changing daily patterns of life, he identifies patterns and the "holy architecture" of shapes and consequences of the ancient world. "I implemented the relationship of emotions, colours, images and the holy shapes," he explains.

Furthermore, in his Holy of Holies, Fekry reflects on quotes that describe Sufism and his art, including 'the relationship between seeing and sight', 'cover vs. uncover' and an 'artist's unity within place'.

Amr Fekry presents a one of a kind ideology in his art that reflects on his Egyptian identity with its Islamic, Coptic, and Ancient Egyptian background and sums it up in his 'Holy of Holies'.

Holy of Holies with be released on 9 June                                                                                                                                                                                                                                    

Sufi Bookstore,12 Sayed Bakry, Zamalek


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