My Neighbour exhibition brings together international artists at the Festival of the Arts

Ati Metwaly, Sunday 15 May 2011

The Caravan Festival of the Arts highlights the importance of building and sustaining bridges between religions and emphasises the importance of friendship and understanding between people

Al Assmaa Essam Takieddine (Syria/Egypt)  "The Greatest Love"

The Caravan arts initiative comes from a vision that the arts can be one of the most effective mediums to enhance understanding and encourage friendship between Christians and Muslims, though the 2011 Caravan Festival of the Arts, originally scheduled to take place during the first week of February (UN’s World Inter-faith Harmony week), was understandably postponed.

The Festival is now being held from 12 and 18 May in the historic St John’s church in the suburb of Maadi in Cairo, and includes two exhibitions entitled My Neighbour and The People’s Egypt.

The exhibition My Neighbour stresses the importance of building bridges between Muslims and Christians and brings together 45 artists who reflect on the concept of mutual acceptance, whether it is between different religions, countries or simply neighbours living in the same building.

The works include leading contemporary artists from Mohammed Abla and Omar El Fayoumi, to rising star Reda Abdel Rahman.

Farid Fadel, Farres Ahmed Farres, Mariam Forham, Rania El Hakim, Carelle Homsy, Isolde Kadry, Nabil Lahoud and Girgis Lotfi are among a long list of Egyptian artists participating in the exhibition.

There are also artists from the region, such as Hakim Jamain from Jordan, Wilson Abrama Adluru Ntana from Sudan and Asmaa Takieddine from Syria. They are accompanied by several Western artists from France, Germany, Norway, Switzerland, the UK and the Netherlands, as well as South Africa and the USA.

“Stronger than the Wind” is from Mohamed Abla’s series Cairo Towers. As the painter affirms, “It does not matter who lives on the first floor and who lives on the top. What matters is working together so the building can stand firm while facing the wind.”

Galila Nawar canvas was inspired by a photo published in Life magazine of a Palestinian boy walking to school.  The face of the young boy expresses fear and surrender, common to many people in the region.

"The Alley" by Isolde Kadry captures the blend between East and West on the streets of Heliopolis, while Reda Abdel Rahman links the Christian and Muslim religions directly in his portrayal of a face hidden behind a cross and crescent. "Of One Spirit” is an attempt to explore the theme of acceptance. 

There is sensitivity expressed in many of the canvases, revealing a warmth, intimacy and compassion to “the other”, who becomes “our neighbour.”

On 14 May the festival hosted a meeting with Khaled El-Khamissi, Egyptian novelist and author of the popular novel Taxi.

The festival will conclude with a musical event where the audience are invited to listen to the sounds of the nay (Oriental flute), played by Mohamed Antar. 

The exhibition hall is open for three more days: 16, 17 and 18 May, between 11am and 7pm. The nearby Guiness Hall features a smaller number of canvases and photographs relating to the January 25 Revolution, entitled The People’s Egypt.

St John’s Church, Maadi, Cairo, on the corner of Port Said Road and Road 17.

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